Take notice of the contrast between Ellie in a fuchsia-pink, floral-adorned dress and the baby blue, geometrically inclined sweater vest and black sport jacket combination donned by Carl: colors and patterns often associated with classic girl/boy cultural connotations (especially in mid-twentieth century America, the estimated setting of the shot), a subtle implication to, and appropriate enough for, the child-bearing revelations that subsequently follow. The deep, opaque black of Carl’s blazer and large-framed glasses deviates from the pastel-hued throw blanket as well as the more saturated deep wash of Ellie’s dress and the emerald green grass, visually distinguishing Carl himself from the rest of the contents in the frame emphasizing that the film is conceptually his story, about his mourning and his redemption.
Ellie and Carl occupy the center of the frame, symmetrically accentuating the corner of the blanket they lay on (which “points” up to the edge of screen). In between them, an empty space that could be occupied with the possibilities of a family, possibilities that Ellie herself literally points upwards to in the baby-silhouetted clouds of the sky above. The cast shadows of the tree branches cut the frame in half horizontally, perhaps leading to infer upon the mystery of the unknown future and it’s limitless potential for life (the living tree, the seasonal flowers, the fresh grass) and, as the inevitable end of the montage leads us to, death (the tree, flowers, and grass all, too, will perish).
However, in keeping with the established idea that this is indeed Carl’s story of redemption, the sky up above signifies not only the birth and passing of life (again, the baby-clouds and in contrast, the assumed belief in Heaven, as is evidenced by the church funeral), but also the rebirth of life as well. The camera at Ellie’s side is an important detail not only in the intricacies of the plot (photographs are a recurring theme throughout), but in respect to the actual moment of time captured in the shot.
Photographs are exactly that, a moment of time (i.e. life) captured; existing to remind us that this (this moment, this time, this life), too, will pass. With that understanding, the film’s archetypal story elevates and transforms itself to boy-meets-life/boy-lives-life/boy-loses-life/boy-gets-life-back.
This is the second entry in the ongoing series “Observations on a Shot.” Click here for the previous entry.