Gay & Lesbian Film & Lit.
Pariah is a 2011 independent film depicting the story of a young black lesbian in Brooklyn who is trying to come to terms with her identity. Though you might not guess that at first if you were to go in blind. The film makes very little attempt to directly affirm a lot of information to the audience right away. In the opening of the movie, for example, we are introduced to a dim and noisy nightclub, or more accurately thrown in. The shots here are close, the lighting is very dark, and the dialogue is sparse and minimal.While we’re not formally introduced to these characters, we still learn things like how Alike’s character already identifies as a lesbian from the start, in contrast to many other coming-out stories. We’re not directly told a lot of things, but we’re still given a lot of information about the characters and their stories through these film techniques. These uses of cinematography, sound, editing, and narrative to help tell the story are prevalent throughout the whole film, and are used effectively to elevate a convincing coming-of-age story into something much more unique.
The use of lighting, color, shots, and angles all work to create a distinct visual style that changes as the story does. The movie constantly shifts colors and levels of brightness from scene to scene in a way that visually conveys Alike’s progression as a character. As the environments and colors change, so too does Alike. In her first poem that we see her read in class, she compares herself to a butterfly imprisoned by its own cocoon. “Cramped in the darkness of the too-tight cocoon of its own creation.” Mirroring this, the film starts in the previously mentioned women’s club with extreme-closeups and incredibly tight shots of Alike and the other patrons. The lighting is very dim, and the shots are filled with hot purples and pinks colors. Alike never outright states in dialogue how she is...
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