In Cold Blood (1967) – Scene Analysis

A filmmaker can employ many techniques, whilst making a film, which can have a profound effect on the audience. A film that I enjoy quite a bit, although it definitely has its shortcomings, is the 1967 crime film called “In Cold Blood”. The film itself is based on a book by Truman Capote, which in turn was based on true events. I won’t go into the specifics of the film in case you haven’t seen it, but I am going to analyze a powerful scene from the film.

You’ll see in this scene a few things which stand out. The first is the lighting. The character in this scene is Perry. He has been arrested and is awaiting the gallows during this scene as he remembers his troubled past. Notice how his face is in half shadow. This signifies an inner conflict with the character. He doesn’t want to admit that he has come from a bad place, but he knows it to be true. He doesn’t want to give in to the truth, hence a conflict within himself. The shades of grey around him are very somber and denote a melancholic atmosphere, which makes sense since he is on death row.

Another important aspect of this shot is the window to the right. There are two important aspects revolving around the window. Although, I am sure there is probably some more meaning if we dig a little deeper. In any case, the first aspect that I notice are the bars which cross up and down the window. It creates a prison like effect. This visual component not only reminds us that he is physically inside a jail, but that on some deeper, spiritual level he is also in a jail. Rather, he is trapped within himself and within his past, and all that he has done. He feels, in this moment and in the past, that he simply cannot escape from himself.

The second aspect is probably one of the most powerful aspects of the film. Notice the reflection of the rain on his face when he is talking. It makes it look like he is crying. There are moments when the reflection passes perfectly under the eye to create the illusion of giant tears. This is very important when we consider the context of the scene. He can’t bring himself to cry, but his exterior world enables us to see how he feels on the inside.

One final note: notice the camera angle and shot length. Most of this scene is just one shot fixated on Perry. I think that the director did this because he wanted us to be fully invested in every word that Perry was saying. By minimizing the edits it focuses us into the moment which we are watching. The camera angle is also peculiar. It is slightly angled up, which usually denotes that the character is powerful. In this moment you could make the argument that Perry is not powerful since he is about to die and is being punished. But consider this: maybe he is in a position of power in regards to himself. He is at least acknowledging his past and starting to come to terms with the present. Doesn’t this give him a little power on the matter?

Filmmakers have the power to show the audience the inside of a character’s mind without having to add unnecessary dialogue or voice-overs. There are so many techniques which can be used to do this. I think that this scene shows us some very interesting, and powerful ways to do so.

 

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