May 15, 2013

Best Shot: The Talented Mr. Ripley

For personal reasons, by which I mean starting a new job this week and a few family commitments, I've had the craziest time imaginable and haven't really had the chance to watch/write anything these past few days. However, I surprised myself by managing to squeeze in a screening of The Talented Mr. Ripley last night so I feel that, despite not having enough time to write a proper article, I should still go ahead and post my favorite shot because...well, I've chosen one, so why not?

The above shot is of Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) playing his instrument by the window of a room in his villa in Italy - what a coincidence, by the way, that we're following up another 'American in Italy' film with this one for the series. The reason I'm choosing this shot - one of many candidates but a clear favorite for me - is two-fold. For one thing, the composition is absolutely beautiful and it fits in nicely with the rest of The Talented Mr. Ripley in producing a subdued, gentle imagery of Italy's beautiful architecture and the interiors of Dickie's villa. Minghella avoids almost every opportunity to magnify the scenery or the opulence of Dickie's possessions. The visual focus of his camera is always the characters and their human interactions. (Think of how he manages to juxtapose objects with people in ways that connects them together thematically, most obviously in the sequence of Miles' murder with the bleeding statue of a male head.)

More importantly, however, this is my favorite shot because it captures the essence of Dickie's character in a single frame. Cast in this silhouette, Dickie is at his most mysterious, hiding secrets and charming at once. With the golden shine of his instrument and the golden flow of his hair, Dickie's image is as enigmatic and alluring as it is cryptic. The shadow tells us nothing about him, while telling us so much at the same time: his elegance, his casual handsomeness, his love of jazz, his cool demeanor. After his death, when his persona is inhabited by Tom, he becomes an increasingly illusory figure for the audience. The boundaries between Dickie and Tom's impression of Dickie get murkier and we become disillusioned with all our knowledge of him; and the more unattainable he becomes, the easier it is for me to recognize that this one splendid mirage represents Dickie in ways a thousands words could not.


  1. Love that shot. And you're so right, it really does capture who Dickie is. I love a good silhouette.

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