Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Two observations on films watched recently:

The Story of Adele H. (1975) / Francois Truffaut

1. Shock Corridor(1963) features the dirtiest set of walls in film history – Fuller’s film is more about confinement than any other quantity (the title itself suggests a place closed from both sides; an enclosure if you must) and thereby, the walls in the mental hospital always seem to be collapsing onto its inmates. The feeling of incarceration is so absolute that the film’s most obvious scene of delirium features a rain storm that takes place indoors. The walls of the hospital are invariably laced with dirty crayon drawings that deface each inch of them – even the shadow-patterns formed by light that streams in from the hospital windows register on the walls like dirty graffiti-crummy wallpaper and/or other sorts of defacement.

2. In The Story of Adele H.(1975), a single visual cue is used to induce an almost abrupt fade-out of a music piece that laces each image of the film up till the point of the cue (the piece begins, infact, with the opening title-cards themselves). The opening credits are followed by a sequence where Adele reaches Halifax via-boat, then witnesses an argument between another passenger and the Halifax soldiers, and then hires a carriage that takes her to a hotel – all throughout this series of short-scenes, the music forms a looming background. Suddenly, as the carriage-driver informs Adele about how inappropriate the hotel might be for a ‘young woman such as herself’, the musical piece assumes a more menacing tone. Deprived of any sort of security or shelter, this young woman in an alien land is without any sort of assistance when the carriage-driver offers to take her to a boarding house that he believes will be appropriate for her. She agrees. As the shot of the signboard saying, ‘Room and Board’ appears on the screen, the recently-turned-nasty music abruptly comes to a halt. The safety summarised by the contents of the signboard neutralizes the peril of the soundtrack – the image tells the sound to shut up. This is interesting also, because five years earlier, Truffaut made a film called Bed and Board, where the two terms mean anything but a safe sanctuary.

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