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Daily Dose of Darkness #8: Seeing You for the First Time (Scene from Mildred Pierce)

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....seemingly lovely, adorable person on the outside as in the case of the daughter could be so ugly and toxic and sociopathic on the inside.  As has been noted about the noir style, “not everything is as it seems” and this is a prime example.  We expect the girl to be sweet and good because of her petite size and how she looks


I noticed also that the lighting & cinematography treatment differed for the two, heightening the unexpected juxtaposition of appearance & character Miss Daniels' mentions here - Vera, particularly near the end of the scene, is beautifully lit with slightly soft focus, evoking the heroine/beauty classical Hollywood "soft style" convention which almost confuses by producing a pang of sympathy desipte the manipulative cruel shallowness revealed.

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The noir influence is definitely seen in the character of Veda,but there is something dark about the mother,too. I think that Veda is the mother's alter ego.I believe the many years of enabling Veda served two purposes;first of all, the continuous feeding of indulges of the lavish lifestyle to her daughter satisfied the mother's drive of being a better mother to her children than her mother was to her. The more she sacrificed and gave all she had to them,she believed they would repay her with endearing love--and if they didn't,it meant that she wasn't working hard enough or sacrificing enough,and sadly,wasn't being a good enough mother to them.To this woman, Mildred,her child(or children)was the center of her life and nothing else mattered...not even her own happiness. Secondly,the excessive doting was feeding a festering (dark and cynical) monster inside Veda.


When Mildred realizes what Veda has done; to lie, scheme and to manipulate the wealthy socialite's son into a bogus marriage in order to get money from him,she is shocked and appalled. It is a first time for both Mildred and Veda to come face-to-face and reveal their true selves to one another. Literally,Mildred is not only forced to see her own ambitions in Veda,but is also forced to see what she has created in Veda (a horrible, ugly and diabolic creature). Mildred's heighth over Veda projects her as the authoritative mother figure, as well as,the grabbing of Veda's arms while questioning her motives for her actions.However, Veda does not coward down as one might think. Instead, she bounces back with a charge in her that spews out every hateful thought,discontentment,and vengeance she'd ever felt for her mother. The authoritative mother figure inside Mildred, however, was determined still to assert her power/control over her daughter; and force her to succumb to her rule by snatching her purse then ripping up the check (symbolic of what she really wanted to do to Veda). This action fueled more fire into Veda, giving rise to a dynamic and compelling slap that sends Mildred plunging down the stairs. However, the strong willed mother bounces back up the stairs at an even eye level to look the demon that she had created straight on--bellowing out a retaliatory urge for Veda to "get out" before she'd "kill" her.


"Mildred Pierce" is a film that greatly contributes to noir films because of its dark and melodramatic juxtaposition of characters. People love seeing opposition and boundaries being crossed as well as character's struggling with internal demons.

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This is one of my favorite movies. I love how, although this isn’t technically a noir film, Veda is kind of like a femme fatale. This scene proves that she is willing to do whatever she has to do to get whatever she wants, no matter what it costs. I think it’s interesting that Curtiz has Mildred stand in relation to Veda in this particular scene. The slight difference in height allows her to stand by her daughter and stare down at her while she’s cutting her down. Mildred’s facial expressions are so wonderful in this clip. When Veda turns and goes to the stairs, you can almost anticipate Mildred shooting her in the back. She does so with her words and stares of disapproval instead. The slap definitely elevates the tension between them.                                                                                                                                                     


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The scene opens with a the camera focused upward from below the sofa on which Veda is reclined and we can see that she is gazing at a bank check. The dialogue reveals her to be quite sinister and calculating, while her mother, Mildred seems surprised to find this out. The camera close-up is on Mildred as she reacts to Veda's statement, "I got the money, didn't I?" and we see that Mildred finds it despicable. Then we have a close-up on Veda as she proceeds to tear down Mildred and everything that she has done to make a good life for herself and her ungrateful offspring. Both of these actresses give superb performances, we can feel the anger and tension building. The slap that Veda delivers to Mildred on the staircase seems completely spontaneous. This film is an important contribution to film noir on the basis of the themes of greed and avarice and for  showing a girl-on-girl protagonist/ antagonist relationship. Curtiz uses shadowy effects as well as equal lighting for both character and scene. We also have characters who exhibit no redeeming qualities.

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