Friday, May 6, 2011

More Screenshots

In the movie, the colours progress from light sunny yellow, to a monotone pale hue, to dark blue, and finally to green. The colour progression shows portrays the underlying emotion of the film, something that goes unspoken in the community.

 This is the shot of Lux as she wakes up on the football field alone the next morning. Another major difference in the movie is added here; in the book, Lux comes home very late at night, instead of very early in the morning. This is the specific scene where the colour tone switches to a dark blue. The colour is cold, and makes the viewer feel lonely, which is a direct parallel to the sunny hues of the beginning of the movie. The shot is an aerial shot, and is also a long shot. This brings attention to the fact that Lux is very alone in her situation, and now feels small and insignificant. Her actions of the night before are now being seen in the eye of the "bigger picture" and she most definitely regrets the choices she has made. I really like that she is wearing all weight in this scene, because white is the colour of purity. This is of course very ironic for Lux's current situation. She is hunched over, searching for her shoes, as the magic of the night before and the reality of how much trouble she is going to be in has faded.

These two screenshots are towards the end of the film, after the suicides have been completed and the boys are left searching for answers. The top frame is the last shot that is shown in the movie. It is of the boys after a debutante party, as they stand on the sidewalk,. staring off into the distance. The camera pans out from them, again making the characters feel very alone. It is interesting to mention that the boys went to a party and met girls, and are now being portrayed as along and insignificant, just as Lux was portrayed after her evening with rip in the earlier shot. This scene, while simple, looked very thoughtful and compelling. It has a very cool colour palette, but is not the darker blue of the earlier shots. It is kind of a green-ish blue, which indicates that the initial sorrow over the death of the sisters has passed, but there is still a remarkable haunting quality to the neighbourhood. Eugenides actually mentions the greenish tinge in the novel, which is then translated into the movie: "It was full-fledged summer again, over a year since Cecilia had slit her wrists, spreading the poison in the air. A spill at the plant increased the phosphates in the lake and produced a scum of algae so thick that the swamp smell filled the air, infiltrating the genteel mansions. Debutantes cried over the misfortune of coming out in a season everyone would remember for its bad smell". The smell in question is actually visible, as a thick green smog that overpowers most of the neighbourhood parties (as seen in the second shot above). To me, this is beyond eerie and works incredibly well. It is almost like the death of the Lisbon girls caused an imbalance in the "great chain of being" causing this otherworldly smog to form, almost as if they were suffocating the neighbourhood with their death. The warm sunny hues and the straightforward "sad" blue tones are gone, and all the neighbourhood is left with is this bizarre green tone. It's not sad, and it's not happy, because the community is neither the former or the latter. This green smog (and how the neighbourhood reacts to it by throwing asphyxiation themed parties) highlights how bizarre and unconventional society really is.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Something I briefly mentioned in an earlier post, but didn't get around to explaining is the very noticeable colour change that occurs throughout the movie. Sofia Coppola is really skilled at using colour tones to create a mood or atmosphere, as I have seen this technique in all of her movies. The Virgin Suicides is no exception. There are certain scenes that highlight a climax in the plot, and from these scenes comes a tone change or adjustment, because a new feeling in society and throughout the neighbourhood is introduced. This is one of the reasons this movie is so effective.

This is a frame from the beginning of the movie. Therese sits in the corner of the frame looking up into the sunset. The sunset may indicate a new dawn or part of the girl's life. To me, it always looked like the girls were spending time in the last part of their childhood, symbolized as the setting sun. Therese looks carefree and wistful at the same time. The grass around them symbolizes the beauty in the simplicity of nature. Notice that it is not an elaborate garden or remarkable forest; it is simply a patch of grass and weeds. This shows how the girls found beauty in nature, in the beauty that is all around in the world that most people seem to miss. Lux's face appears in the rest of the frame. It is just an outline of her face, faded like a memory. This adds to the dreamy quality of the sequence, but also may indicate that the boys' memory of Lux is faded. The fact that the girls' faces from two different shots in spliced indicates that the girls have some sort of mental and emotional connection, almost like they have a collective set of feelings and thoughts. I like this shot because it shows a side of Therese that is otherwise not touched on in the book.

This shot is taken during the party when Cecilia has jumped out of her bedroom window and is impaled on the fence outside. This shot interests me because it gives a view of the action from the street, as an outside observer would see it. One can see that it is very obvious that the Lisbon family likes their privacy, because there are heavy curtains in some windows, and gauzy curtains in the rest of the windows. This gives an air of mystery. Cecilia herself is in the darkness, and her and her father's face are unseeable. Mrs. Lisbon appears in the light, playing the role of protective parent, her arms are out so the girls can't see what has happened to their sister. This is one of the only moments that I liked Mrs. Lisbon as a mother and one of the only times I saw how hard she works to protect her children. The tone here is very dark and sinister, but also very peaceful at the same time. The faint glow on Cecilia makes her look like an angel or other otherworldly creature.

The tone of this shot seems unassuming at first, but it kind of reminds me of the first shot, except the colour looks fake and forced, as if the happiness is not real. The boys are scattered throughout the photo; if the viewer was not looking for them, they might not have been seen because they blend in. Most of the other students in the picture are brunette, and the Lisbon blonde stands out, making them the focus. Interestingly enough, this is not a very good picture of any of the Lisbon girls. Lux looks angry and sullen, Bonnie has her arms crossed and Mary and Therese look as if they are forcing smiles. From right to left, the picture reads from the eldest sister to the youngest sister, but reasons for this I cannot fathom. It may be the order of death as well. This image starts out far away, and we see many other students, but we cut to a closer snapshot of the girls with every take, as if the viewer of the photo is trying to analysis them, to look for some foreshadowing, something pointing to what's to come. The fact that the photo starts off so far away indicates that the girls may have gotten lost in a sea of people at school, and went unnoticed by everyone except the boys.

This scene is not to be annotated, but I have read something very compelling about this particular shot. This is the snapshot that Mr. Lisbon takes of the girls before they go to the prom. Note that Lux's hand looks like she is holding a cigarette, which is how she is found when she dies. Therese's eyes are closed, and she ends up overdosing on sleeping pills. Mary coughs right after the photo is taken, and she dies by putting her head in the oven. Bonnie's arm looks like a noose around hr neck, like how she commits suicide. This part of the movie wasn't included in the book because it would not be so subtle in text as it is on film. Just something interesting I found out about!

Book vs. Movie

There were a few significant differences between the book and the movie, but as far as screen adaptations go, Sofia Coppola did a really good job of staying true to the original ideas that Eugenides had, and kept the overall surreal, haunting quality very present. In fact, most of the dialogue from the movie was taken right out of the book. While I did enjoy the movie thoroughly, and seeing it was my reason for reading the book, I am sure that I enjoyed the book much more than the movie.

One of the biggest differences in the plot of the book versus the plot of the movie was the death of Mary Lisbon. In the movie, Mary Lisbon dies right away alongside her sisters in the final suicide that ends the book. However, in the book, she survives for a few weeks, before killing herself with sleeping pills in the family home. I personally liked the movie version of this better, though the novel made us feel a lot more sympathy for Mary and learn about her more as an individual. I think this was cut from the movie for timing reasons, and because it would have dragged out the plot a lot longer. I personally don't think it would have worked very effectively on screen.

Another thing Coppola changed was the character is Trip Fontaine. He is much more likeable in the movie then in the book. In the book, his reason for leaving Lux alone on the football field is because he "got sick of her", but in the movie adaptation Trip says that he left her and he didn't exactly know why. It is made very clear in the movie that Trip was full of regrets about his life and was still haunted by the memory of Lux. In the book he seemed belligerent and somewhat obnoxious, but Josh Harnett played him with more lightheartedness and likeability.

A lot of the uglier details of the novel were left out. The conversation about Therese having upper lip hair that needed bleaching, and the sequence where Lux fakes an appendix rupture to get a pregnancy test and finds out she has an STD were conveniently not there. They would kind of wreck the ethereal  and dreamy quality of the movie, and wouldn't really fit in to any of the other sequences. In this way, the book seemed more raw and realistic.