Thursday, November 17, 2016

Possessed (1947)


In film school we learned a lot about the "classical Hollywood style". The central tenant of this "style" was to create a seamless experience where the audience is continuously enveloped in the story and great pains are taken to preserve that illusion. Edits and camera movements are placed very strategically so that you do not notice them. While I'm pretty sure it was unintentional, throughout this film I was repeatedly made aware that I was watching a deliberate construct.

Right near the opening you have Joan Crawford walking down real Los Angeles streets, then you cut to her walking up to and into a restaurant that is very obviously a set. And then there are camera moves like the POV shot of Joan being wheeled into the hospital. Nothing seamless about a shot like that. Even the ways in which Crawford is lit to maximize her Joan-ness is a bit distracting.

When you later find out that her character is sometimes unable to distinguish reality from fantasy, I started to wonder if the clashing of styles was deliberate. Was director Curtis Bernhardt subtly preparing us for later reveals and shocks? Was he making a comment on the inherent falseness of the cinema? Judging by his filmography, I'm thinking not. But I love when a work of art allows my mind to roam to such places. That's what makes movies great. You can have your own little theories about them, like that The Shining was Kubrick's way of telling us the truth about the Moon Landing...

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