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Daily Dose of Darkness #30: Into the Darkness (Scene from Desperate)

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The first few seconds when Raymond Burr makes his entrance, it is the only time all three faces of the thugs are visible. After one of the hoods finishes saying, “But I managed to bring him back here for you, Walt,” that is when Burr speaks and becomes cloaked in the shadows at the same time. The only face that isn’t seen is that of Steve Brodie, faced away from the camera, huddled in the far left corner of the frame to show his helplessness and insignificance to his tormentors.



The staging of Burr punching Brodie is very interesting. The direction switches from the back of Brodie’s head to the side of his face. So when Burr punches him, despite Brodie being the target, Burr doesn’t pull back after hitting him. Instead, his fist lunges to the edge of the scene and when he pulls back his hand, there is a well-lit, extreme close-up of his fist as if he threatening the audience, itself, and Brodie was merely in the way of (the director’s) real target. The slow momentum with which Burr moves his fist emphasizes the coercion and sadism, telling us that he is no hurry and will enjoy taking his time to whoever he has to terrorize.



This scene is a clear example that lighting is an art and never accidental. The faces of Burr and his men are always partially hidden in the darkness and are clothed in dark jackets whereas Steve Brodie’s face and pastel coat are fully illuminated. The only other time that Burr’s face is visible is when he snatches Brodie’s license from his pocket and calls the cops to give the license number of the truck used in the robbery, in the guise of a “concerned citizen.” After getting off the phone, he returns to the shadows.



After Brodie is beaten and still proves to be reluctant in following Burr’s orders, Burr breaks a bottle and once again threatens the audience through a close up of the jagged into our POV. The swinging light veering on and off Brodie’s face is symbolic of his pain, but his entire face was still directly visible for the audience to look at while he remained steadfast in his conviction to not give in to Raymond Burr’s threats. The tension heightens when Burr beings up Brodie’s wife. From then on, Brodie’s face is filmed from angle, almost always a sure sign of the shift of balances in the conflict. He is no longer in control of himself and has to acquiesce to Burr and his men, in order save his wife.       


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