Mise-En-Scene Analysis

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“Life's Parade at your Fingertips” Scene in All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955)

Douglas Sirk’ s All That Heaven Allows(1955) is a romantic film about how a wealthy widow defy social norms and commit to love with a young landscape designer. A vital scene in the film, and in Cary Scott (Jane Wyman)’s increasing sadness, takes place after Cary breaks off the marriage with Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson) as her children threaten to abandon her. Cary separates with Ron and lives alone. Following the lonely Christmas Eve Cary has, Cary is trying to celebrate a happy Christmas with her children. Soon she discovers that her own children are going to leave the family home. All her sacrifices are so pointless. In the Life's Parade at your Fingertips scene, Sirk brilliantly employs cinematography, camera movement, mise-an-scène and sound to highlight Cary’s growing sadness. By the end of the scene, Cary appears completely sorrowful and lost.

For most of this scene, Sirk uses an eye-level medium shot and keeps making contrast. The daughter, Kay Scott (Gloria Talbott), announces that she will be married. Then, Sirk starts to use close-up shot to make a contrast between the sorrow face of Cary and the delighted face of Kay. When Cary is so shocked about the news and sits on the sofa, a slow and sad melody comes to the background. When Sirk uses a close-up on Cary’s sorrow face, we can hear that Kay recalls gladly that the afternoon Freddie and her found that they love each other. Cary replies sadly (“That was the day you told me your life would be ruined if I married Ron”) and a close-up shot is quickly made on Kay. Kay stops smiling right that time. The camera tilts up when Kay is raising her head so as to look at Cary. Cary’s back is completely in shadow when Kay asks “Of course I was different. You didn’t really love him, did you?” We can only see a close-up on the cautious face of Kay clearly when she is prying about how her mother feels. Overall, the whole house...
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