Wednesday, September 15, 2010

THAS: Scene from The Mangler #1

What we have here is a scene of approximately a minute's length that manages to emphatically define its three, previously-introduced female characters, and encapsulate the external or internal ordeals they are experiencing, or will continue to experience, through a refined and structural sequence-crafting. The incident - burst, out-of-control steam tubes - is experienced and reacted to by each party, and the scene weaves into a careful tapestry their divergent paths as victims in the story.

The repressed and infantalized Sherry is relegated to reaction shots yielded from her own helpless paralysis, edited to a flurry with the object shots of Annette as the literal victim of the blistering jets of steam. The most elaborate attention goes to Lin Sue, whose combination of fear, cowardice, and also a willful (if desperate) self-respect sends her up the scaffold stairs to the upper walkway to plea for help and relief. Her ascent up the platform is mapped through three carefully interlocked shots. These three shots are rigorously devoted to delineating Lin Sue's flight, the bookending two of which are grand sweeps or pans from wide distances. Put together, they strikingly emphasize: 1) the physical as well as metaphoric moral expanse with which this woman is traversing, as well as 2) the chaotic and overwhelming combination of harried inadvertence, cascading fatefulness, and personal imperative that ultimately contribute to her fortuitous dark ascension to factory owner Gartley's lair - or, ultimately, as we will soon see, into a desired-for place of privilege, safety, and, yes (in her all-important eyes), endowment and dignity. These three shots will be labeled [1], [2], and [3], and their harried flow, cascade of motion, and personalized omniscience are what mostly provide this scene's special sense of artistic deliberateness.

A fourth shot with Lin Sue (which will be labeled [4]) shows her heading into Gartley's dimly lit anterior chambers. It is shown through a single panning shot (with wide-angle lens, as Hooper makes the decision to film most scenes within Gartley's office with a stylized wide-angle distortion) that tracks Lin Sue's walk towards the heart (or belly) of the room. What we have here is
a perfect visual illustration of Lin Sue's unconscious spatial abjection, to the spot most vulnerable to the predator's gaze; that is, right in the middle of the room. The combination of the camera's voyeuristic wide-angle disassociation and the stationary axis of the panning movement is distillation of the camera's (and our) helplessness to at all impeding this tell-tale woman's descent.

We cut away from her before she reaches her spot at the center of the room. After a quick cut back to Gartley, we cut back to her, only now - in rhythmic emphasis - decisively locked into place at the center of the room, pictorially flattened into an engulfing wide shot of Gartley's cluttered, cavernous den of vulturous wealth (this shot is labeled [5]).

This segment begins The Mangler's 1-2-3 sequence of outstanding cinematographic set pieces, which I've been working through backwards and the previous entries I'll direct to here:

Sequence A: the following.
Sequence B: Gartley entering his office and encircling Lin Sue
Sequence C: Lin Sue entreating Gartley from the bathroom

#1 - Tapestry - Three Women

Annette & Sherry

(a tracking shot that begins with Annette and Sherry, then ends in the emergence of Lin Sue into the frame)

Annette, Sherry, & Lin Sue

(a vivid spatial dispersion - the obstinate Lin Sue in isolated foreground, the neutral Annette with others in middle, and the troubled Sherry in isolated background)


Lin Sue



Lin Sue



(Annette is the one brought into Sherry's frame, as a passing blur crossing her line of sight, which reinforces Sherry's tunnel vision and incomprehension. The girl is only then, after the disruption of her frame, brought out of her shock enough to move and act, finally turning from her placeholding camera and whisking herself away.)

Lin Sue



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