The Apex of Last Days, by Luke Orlando
Gus Van Sant’s Last Days follows a rock star (introduced only as Blake) through his last two days alive as he struggles to cope with the reality of fame and his resulting alienation from the rest of the world. This particular scene, which occurs at the exact midpoint of the film, depicts two separate sequences. The first sequence shows Blake escaping his house in order to avoid talking to a friend, and the second sequence is a long, drawn out shot of Blake recording various looped instruments. The formal features of this scene amalgamate to make it a powerful microcosm of the film by both displaying and representing the main theme of Blake’s inner struggle to escape his thoughts and reconnect with reality. Through the effective use of mis-en-scene, cinematography, sound, and editing, this scene demonstrates a unique significance that makes it stand out from the rest of the film. In this scene, mis-en-scene functions to propel the viewer into focusing on the development of Blake as an alienated character. When the scene begins as he changes clothes in his room, high-key lighting illuminates his figure, and a shallow depth of field separates Blake from the wall behind him. When further combined with his position inside a doorframe, it becomes clear that the only intended subject of focus in the shot is Blake, and nothing else. When Blake moves outside, however, the bright green surrounding dominates his drab-coloured character, which results in our attention beginning to shift from Blake to his environment. As we become more aware of his environment, Blake’s size relative to the rest of the shot diminishes, and he is finally pushed to the edge of the frame as he stares at a lake for an extended period of time. Where the director could have decided to cut to a close-up shot of Blake’s face for dramatic effect, he instead decides to make Blake appear small and boring. It is also important to note that at this point, Blake has...
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