Film Analysis Of All That Heaven Allows

1872 words - 8 pages

Film Analysis of All That Heaven Allows

Chosen sequence: Golden Rain Tree/Cary's bedroom scene.

Before the emergence of 'auteur theory' the director Douglas Sirk was
a renowned exponent of classical Hollywood narrative, particularly in
the genre of romantic melodrama, of which his film All That Heaven
Allows is a classic example. However, he is now regarded as a master
of mise-en-scene, one of the few tools left to a director working
within the constraints of the Hollywood studio/institutional system
who is now thought to have been highly critical of American mainstream
culture and society in this prosperous era. 1, 2

The 'Golden Rain Tree' ...view middle of the document...

The Golden Rain Tree sequence starts in Cary's bedroom with a match
cut on the small branch which Ron just presented. In itself, this is a
typical example of continuity editing used to reinforce the developing
classical narrative - the viewer immediately understands that the
token from Ron has assumed a position close to Cary's heart and she
has now effectively placed Ron on her dressing table. This is the type
of mise-en-scene that you would expect to see in this particular
genre. The branch represents not just Ron but also all that he stands
for, given his outspoken love of nature and anything to do with
plants. Also, in accordance with a classical narrative, there is a
direct cause-effect logic in showing the branch. The viewer knows
exactly why the branch is there and who it is from. If the film had
started with this scene, there would be an element of mystery around
the branch and who, if anyone, had presented it. But the film always
maintains a classical narrative, with omniscient narration whereby the
viewer always understands the cause-effect logic, consolidated by
standard continuity editing with a coherent sequencing of events
across space and time.

Having already set out the main protagonists, Sirk also needs to
reinforce the notion of the contrast between Ron (nature) and Cary
(traditional and conservative) and he does this well by laying out the
interior grandeur of Cary's bedroom, in fitting with her elevated
social status. She also wears the clothes of someone in her social
position, favouring a traditional dress.

It is not until later in the film that Ron is shown in his natural
'environment' - rustic log cabins and mountains and country clothes.
In the meantime, Sirk starts with Cary's world and the way this is
displayed through the mise-en-scene shows that there is very evidently
going to be a wide disparity in the two worlds that Ron and Cary
inhabit. In keeping with a classical narrative, this quickly
establishes a contrast in lifestyles (and age) that may have serious
repercussions later on with a period of disequilibrium, ultimately
followed by resolution. If the main causal agent (Cary) is to obtain
her desired goal, she will incur the wrath and backlash of her own
conservative community as well as having to make a huge personal
transformation to move over to Ron's world.

Sirk uses the tools of his background, German expressionism, to show
that despite the affluent and prosperous veneer, all is not happy in
Cary's world. Beside Ron's branch in the vase on the elegant dressing
table, Cary is shown looking thoughtfully but in an unhappy way at a
reflection of herself in the dressing table mirror. Most people use a
mirror on a daily basis, but Cary is shown to be something of an
observer of life, refraining from fully engaging in the social events
...

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