Movie Secrets and Lies Essay

Pages: 7 (2265 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: College Freshman  ·  Topic: Film

¶ … movie "Secrets and Lies"

There are a number of different themes that are at work in the 1996 film "Secrets and Lies." The movie deals with such social issues as miscegenation, marriage difficulties, death, and a whole host of issues that produce an emotionally wrenching effect on the viewer. However, a thorough analysis of this film reveals the fact that virtually all of these concepts are related to the notion of family. More specifically, it appears as though difficulty with familial life is the principle theme in this movie, since all of the other themes are centered around problems between family members. Moreover, there are two scenes in particular that really reinforce this particular motif upon which the film is based. One is the scene in which Roxanne and her mother Cynthia are discoursing about the former's sexual habits. The other is in the beginning of the film when Morris, who is a professional photographer, takes pictures of various families, couples, and individuals -- all of which shows a range of emotions and circumstances in which families operate. An examination of the thematic elements in these two scenes reinforces the notion that the principle theme of "Secrets and Lies" is problems with families.

The scene in which Roxanne and Cynthia discuss Roxanne's relationship with her "bloke," and whether or not she is having sex with him (as well as if she is having safe sex with him) truly serves to underscore the problems that the mother and daughter have with one another. One may even argue that these problems between them are indicative of the problems that exist within their larger family, which is alluded to by the fact that Cynthia has another daughter that she has hidden from Roxanne for all of the latter's life and that she rarely sees her brother, Morris. What is interesting about this scene in particular is that it starts out rather innocently and ends in dramatically, visually representing all of the heartache and difficulty that Cynthia has in trying to establish a relationship with her daughter, who seems to want to only defy her.

The scene begins with the pair having a quiet interlude outdoors in their yard. Roxanne silently studies a newspaper, whereas Cynthia enjoys the company of a lounge chair in the shade while nursing a cold glass. It is important to note that the scene begins swathed in the full light of the day, with the characters shown at a distance. Roxanne's head is down as she looks at the paper whereas Cynthia's legs are shown reclining the lounge chair. Although there is plenty of green foliage captured by the camera in this shot, the run down house they live, with its dark brown exterior in shambles, helps to visually forecast the undercurrent of tension between the two.

The chief problem with Cynthia, which serves to alienate her from her daughter, is that she is devastatingly lonely. She is with neither of the fathers of her two children. Worse, she has the tendency to nag and to attempt to be involved in Roxanne's life -- which only serves to distance her from the other, who believes her mother is too "clingy." Therefore, it is important to note that when the dialogue begins between the two -- initiated by Cynthia, as usual, Roxanne does her best not to pay her mother attention. She mutters a few responses while she busies herself with the newspaper.

More importantly, perhaps, Cynthia takes this opportunity to inquire about the relationship between Roxanne and the young man she is seeing. The peaceful idyll is soon interrupted by the raised voices of the women, Roxanne's in indignation at her mother's attempt to know everything about her life, and Cynthia's almost pathological dedication to assure herself that her daughter is having safe sex. The tension that erupts between the two is visually mirrored by the fact that once they begin talking, and soon after arguing, the camera shows both of them covered in shadows in a slightly ominous way. As the argument escalates, it is key to note that all attempts at peace and tranquility have been abandoned by a dramatic shift in the scenery. The pleasant outdoors environment is forsaken, first by Roxanne and the by Cynthia, who pursues her, and replaced by the Roxanne shutting herself in her room. Thus, the spaciousness of the outdoors is replaced by the confines of Roxanne's room as the two argue. This is a significant point because it demonstrates the forced intimacy between the two women, and how uncomfortable it makes both of them. Roxanne remains in her room with her hands hovering about her forehead in agitation, while her mother worsens the situation by comparing a "potential" child of Roxanne's to her pregnancy with Roxanne.

The climax of the scene occurs shortly thereafter. Roxanne, unable to take her mother's badgering abruptly rises and attempts to leave the room. Cynthia, relatively clueless as to why she has distressed her daughter so, erupts into tears just before Roxanne rises. When the former attempts to hug the latter to show that she only desires her closeness and Roxanne to be a part of her life to ease her own loneliness, Roxanne ruthlessly flings her upon the bed, rebuffing the gesture. The camera then narrows in on Cynthia, scorned, defeated, crying helplessly on her bed, as her daughter leaves the house in a hurry. All of the loneliness that Cynthia was trying to address and make better by keeping company with her daughter is suddenly thrust to the forefront of the camera, as Cynthia sobs, face down, and covered in shadows on the bed. Cynthia's helplessness is visually demonstrated by Roxanne's slamming the door and swiftly disrobing and romping about (in their underwear) with her bloke. The rising score of strings accompanies Cynthia's weeping, and renders Roxanne's obvious attempt to defy her mother -- by sleeping with her bloke -- far from innocent.

The music is an important component of this scene, because it 'guides' the viewer. Once the strings begin wailing as Cynthia weeps, the viewer still knows that the Roxanne's marching to her boyfriend's place is still part of the same scene. Even more importantly, the high notes that the music makes as the pair jump about nearly naked simply underscore the fact that the scene is building to a climax. Overall, this scene is one of the more passionate and heart-rending ones that illustrates the theme of family problems in the film. Cynthia rarely appears this alone and lonely. Roxanne rarely appears as angry at her mother (she issues expletives as she leaves the house). What is all the more tragic is that the anger and tension between the two is merely the result of Cynthia's inadequacies with dealing with her loneliness, and her daughter's inadequacies of perceiving that loneliness -- or of caring about it.

Family issues and in congruencies are also well demonstrated in the scenes depicting Morris at work. As previously mentioned he is a photographer, and the majority of his clients are families as he engages in portrait work. The scenes of his shooting portraits of various customers are interspersed with scenes of Morris at home at his wife. Still, it is quite clear by the appearance of these scenes and the running motif between them, that the illustrate differences among family members and couples, that they can generally be regarded as all the same scene.

The distinctive looks of these scenes is generally facilitated by the strong prominence of the backdrop of the portraits, which is generally dark so that, with the lighting on the individual subjects in the front, the viewer is presented with stark imagery that emphasizes the fact that these are families. Furthermore, all of the different customers that Morris is shown working with in this early part of the film are shown in close-up. They are generally framed in the center of the screen to emphasize their importance in relation to the principle theme of the movie. Although some of these customers are shown in an anecdotal sense to denote points of humor within the movie, it is significant that there is a disparity of action and opinions between virtually all of the family members, from the youngest children to even 'extended' family members such as pets.

An excellent example of this fact is demonstrated in the 19th minute, when Morris is shooting a couple who may very well be newlyweds. The man is holding the woman's hand near the center of the screen to show the wedding ring on it. Yet the couple spends the majority of the time in which they are posing bickering with one another. Initially the woman desires the man to remove his glasses, which he is unwilling to do. No sooner has he complied with her wishes than he wants her to place her necklace (which bears a crucifix) on the outside of her collar, to highlight it. Predictably, the woman is unwilling… [END OF PREVIEW]

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