The Fast Forward Revue

Reflecting on Reflections by gaohippy

Opening scene of Unbreakable. Future comic-book-style villain Elijah Price has just been born. We don’t know at this point whether he has been dropped on his head or whether he has a fragile bone disease that will eventually inspire his childhood nickname, “Mr. Glass” (in case you haven’t figured it out by this point, it’s the latter). Aside from being a major plot point, this scene is an illustration of a commonly used directorial flourish: the action unfolds through reflections in a mirror. Maybe I haven’t really been paying attention, but I am starting to become more and more conscious of directors pointing their cameras not  at their players, but at reflections of their players.

In Hsiao-hsien Hou’s Flight Of The Red Balloon, the extent to which he places mirrors or window reflections between the audience and the action almost becomes distracting. Whether they they are inside the car and we are looking in from outside of the windshield or whether they are reflecting off of the windows that line the street, Hou must be trying to make a statement. After all, a visual theme for it’s own sake is like wearing too much makeup: it simply obscures whatever is beneath it. So, as an audience member, I find myself focusing more on trying to figure out Hou’s intentions than on paying attention to the story (which, by the way, moves slowly and in circles).

Claude Lelouch also introduces that element of indirect spectating in Roman De Gare. As we sit with the protagonist in question inside a rest stop gas station, we see an argument unfold between one of the film’s heroines and her boyfriend. Later on in the film, the two leading characters who we come to know as Huguette and Pierre have a conversation and of course, there we find ourselves again, hovering in front of the windshield trying to see our characters’ faces that are being partially obstructed by reflections on the glass.

For some reason or another, I feel a personal need to rationalize the use of the indirect point of view, and I’ve concluded that its purpose is to empower audience members as true voyeurs. Rather than being invisible onlookers to a scene, they are instead placed directly into the hustle and bustle; almost as if to avoid the awkwardness that comes with staring, they look indirectly onto the action. Perhaps mirrors and reflections also serve as personal mirrors for a film’s characters, reminding us that they are as self-reflective as we are. Please discuss further, as I’d love to learn from your insight.

I’m not sure if this kind of meandering post is even legal on the Fast Forward Revue.



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