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Film makers employ a broad range of audio-visual elements within their texts to effectively communicate their main ideas and concepts. It is through the implementation of these cinematic components that the audience is enabled to follow the characters experiences and perhaps develop an understanding in relation to their difficulties. These notions become apparent in Todd Haynes film, Far From Heaven (2002), the film recreates the 1950’s melodramatic style to explore contemporary issues. In particular, Far From Heaven’s (2002) underlying themes of homosexuality, racial prejudice and the women’s experience, explore how societal ideals and cultural oppression lead to internal conflict and irreconcilable social and personal dilemmas.
Todd Haynes film, Far from Heaven (2002), utilises various cinematic elements to explore contemporary themes of condemned extramarital, homosexual relations and the conflicting issues it creates for the individual and their families. Hayne’s, throughout the film uses subtle cinematic cues to build on the narrative’s fundamental themes. The utilisation of diegetic dialogue as Eleanor reads “behind every great man resides a great woman”, establishes the oppressive social ideals of their time, suggesting intimate relations are to be between individuals of the opposite sex. The allusion to sexual relations as Nancy states “Mike insists on…once a week” proves to be an uncomfortable topic for Cathy as the camera cuts to a medium shot, capturing her awkward facial expression, the reiteration “once a week?” creates a sense of unease. Further emphasised through Cathy’s closed off body language, her lack of eye contact and nervous adjustment of her napkin becomes indicative of problems within her marriage. The employment of a transitional dissolve and sound bridge connects two scenes of Cathy bringing Frank dinner from home to his office, to build anticipation. This is emphasised through the low-key blue lighting, forming a sense of mystery for the audience, juxtaposed by Cathy’s bright red dress and green coat, creating an interplay with the characters conflict of internal emotions and their surroundings. Haynes utilises similar forms of the blue lighting throughout the film, to form emotional meaning and follow the effect of Franks sexual desires on his marriage. The lighting starts as lavender and purple based, as the story continues the blue becomes darker and green based to reflect their deteriorating relationship. Haynes use of a medium close up shot of Cathy as she opens the office door, grasps her reaction before the camera swiftly pans to a medium wide shot of Frank kissing another man. The non-diegetic music moves up-tempo and increases in volume to create intensity and reflect Cathy’s shock. Haynes recalls the green lighting of the gay bar scene and foreshadows the walls in the Miami hotel to create the effect of disturbing otherworldliness, the abnormal and warped nature of franks sexual desires. Haynes implementation of swift camera movements, low-key lighting and increasingly intensified music, builds the emotional intensity of the scene and establishes visual symbols that recur throughout the film, allowing the audience to link particular colours and lighting with certain emotions and character desires. Haynes use of subtle cinematic cues, in addition to distinctive elements allow him to effectively communicate the films main ideas and concepts.
Far From Heaven (2002) explores racial prejudice and interracial relationships through the use of various filmic devices. Haynes develops cinematic patterns throughout the film to shape the film’s narrative. Haynes establishes societal racial views through the implementation of props, such as the newspaper in combination with diegetic dialogue “as she is kind to Negroes”. This form of liberal sentiment is tolerable for a white woman of her time, as it is condescending and creates a superiority complex. Cathy is labelled throughout the film as an advocate for African American rights, as she is constantly considered as “kind to Negroes” and the “pro-integration type”. Haynes then builds on racial hierarchy through costume and context, Raymond is a gardener repetitively placed in casual work attire always contrasted by Cathy who is garbed in lavish dresses, coats and scarves. Haynes establishes Raymond as Cathy’s object of desire, her confidant as the stresses of confront Frank’s ‘problem’ starts to take its toll on her. This is seen through the recurring setting of nature, in which most of Cathy and Raymond’s encounters take place, Haynes uses the outdoor setting to indicate the natural and innate nature of their relationship, contrasted to the confining, claustrophobic domestic environment that constantly traps Cathy. Haynes establishes the initial nature of their relationship through the close up picture of Raymond’s daughter, their hands almost touching. Haynes further alludes to their potential intimacy through the use of non-diegetic music, the soft slow melody creates an emotional affection as Cathy collects her scarf. This can be seen further throughout the film as Raymond and Cathy become closer. Haynes cinematic patterns allow the audience to follow the characters interracial relationship and understand the underlying prejudice and judgement that restricts them from pursuing an intimate relationship.
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