LAURA (Preminger, 1944)
The narrative action in the film Laura occurs over a period of three days. It begins on a Sunday morning, two days after the murder takes place in Laura’s apartment. The narrative begins on this day because this is when Detective Mark McPherson begins his investigation of the case. Being the protagonist of the film, we follow him in his quest to solve the case and his pursuit of Laura. It is on Tuesday night that he succeeds in what he set out to do and therefore, the narrative ends here. Throughout these three days, the way in which the passage of time is communicated is sometimes unclear. Only twice do we hear through dialogue the time and the day. This occurs in the beginning when Waldo tells us it is Sunday. It also happens when Laura returns home from the country and McPherson states that it is Monday night. Although we can see whether it is night or day, without these pieces of information it sees as though the film is taking place over one long, continuous day. Though the story occurs over the course of three days, the plot begins on the Friday of the murder. It is because of this incident the story even takes place. During the film, the viewer is given insight to information that happened many years ago. While Waldo and McPherson are out having a drink, Waldo begins to talk about Laura. At this moment a series of flashbacks are shown starting five years ago when Waldo and Laura first met. We then see how Laura’s career progresses with the help of Waldo. We also see how Laura first met Shelby and how their relationship began. Waldo reveals how Shelby betrayed Laura by dining with her aunt and having relations with Diane. These events all lead up to the day of Laura’s alleged murder. It is during this series of flashbacks that Waldo paints a vivid picture of Laura, a character we have not met before this time. He also establishes the relationships for us she has with each character. Here, we are also able to find motives each character would have for killing Laura. Since the story mainly follows McPherson on his investigation, it is with him the story begins and ends. Although time and day are not always clear during this period, maybe that is the intention. We never see the characters really do anything human such as eat or sleep which would break up the days. We only see them trying to solve the case and pin the murder on one another. The film could be organized this way to make the viewer as involved in the story as the characters. Waldo’s flashbacks hold significance. Through this we establish relationships between characters as well as get to know them better. Though, these flashbacks are told from Waldo’s point of view. This makes the viewer question how much of what we saw was the truth. Could he fabricating this to make himself look innocent? SOUND
Sounds serve many functions in this film. The score, properly titled “Laura”, composed by David Raksin is known to be “one of the film’s most durable legacies” (IMDB.com). The music is very powerful. It sets the tone for the film as well as revealing information to us about the characters. The dialogue helps with this as well and expresses some of the major themes the film. Sound effects are also used to create feelings and move the story. One of the most versatile uses of sound in the film is the score. The score is very romantic yet haunting. It represents the psychological state of both Waldo and McPherson. Though they are two very different characters, they share a strong desire and obsession for Laura. Waldo loves her so much he is willing to kill her then let her be with anyone but him. McPherson loves her even when he thinks she is dead. The score also represents Laura herself. In the scene when McPherson, Waldo, and Shelby are in Laura’s apartment, McPherson turns on her record player in which the music begins to play. Shelby recognizes this as Laura’s favorite song describing it as “not classical, but sweet”. We assume...
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