Additional heuristics

At the exact moment Hana learns about the death of her fiancé, the army hospital tent where she is located is suddenly bombed. The bombing is not part of some larger offensive, nor are any consequences indicated in the film. On a literal level, the bombing functions as an element of verisimilitude (it is an event that happens in war). But beyond this, its primary aim is to express Hana's extreme state of mind at hearing the news. In Perkins's terminology, the bombing is first and foremost a credible element within the film, and can function on this level only. Beyond this literal meaning, however, the bombing serves to express a character's state of mind. We can use the expressivist heuristic to read the bombing as an event in the film that expresses character psychology.

Another element of cinematic elaboration that takes place in the film are the transitions effected from the present in Tuscany to the pre-war past in the desert. We have already noted that these transitions can be understood psychologically, as representing Almasy's change ofA consciousness. In addition, many of Almasy's memories are triggered, in Proustian style, by small cues. The first flashback is triggered by Almasy knocking over his copy of Herodotus, and the contents spilling out on the floor. Slow dissolve to Almasy holding the open book and drawing the Cave of Swimmers. The transition back to the present is marked by a visual analogy, not a memory. As the two biplanes fly over the desert, the camera focuses on the rugged landscape. This slowly dissolves into a shot of Almasy's crumpled sheets as he lies in the monastery bed. The dissolve is 'motivated' by the visual similarity between the landscape and the sheets. The second transition is effected via sound. Hana is outside the monastery playing hopscotch. The sounds she creates, which are heard by Almasy, motivate his flashback to the desert campsite, which begins with a drumming sound similar to the sound Hana creates. (Sounds trigger several additional flashbacks.) The third flashback is triggered by Caravaggio, who asks Almasy if the name Katharine Clifton means anything to him. The transition back to the present takes place as Almasy and Katharine are dancing. The close body contact brings Almdsy back to the present, where Hana has fallen asleep on him.

As one final example of the foreground-background and same-frame heuristics, we shall simply quote Seale's description of a shot in the monastery with Hana and Caravaggio (played by Willem Dafoe):

In another scene set in the Italian monastery, Hana, with lantern in hand, walks into the monastery's kitchen to wash herself, only to collapse in tears of stress and emotion. 'In the background, Willem Dafoe comes through the door,' Seale says. 'Juliette throws her head on the table, and even though we only had focus on the top of her head, we still didn't throw it [the focus] back to Willem. Because it's her scene, her emotion, her moment, and he's intruding upon it. If you pull [focus] to him, you include him in her moment. By not pulling, you keep him back and force him to come forward, which he does. He walks forward and leans down, and just his face and hands are sharp.'

(quoted in Oppenheimer 1997: 37)

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