Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Art of Symbolism in Film

Do you ever watch a movie and notice subtle, underlying themes and symbols gently spread throughout the film? Little items here and there which point to the greater picture, or, a particular character?

Let's look at a couple of films for examples of how symbols and common themes have been utilized well.

One of the main characters in this movie was an extremely frail, easily injured man named Elijah, who, because of his physical weakness, was called "Mr. Glass". A common symbol throughout the film, was glass. Many of Elijah's scenes were shot through windows, mirror reflections, glass.
One might not notice this watching the film first time through, because it is so subtle and easy to miss. The subtlety of this is partly what makes the theme so brilliant.

Quite obviously and not so subtle is the common theme and symbolism used in The Hunger Games, of fire, and of course, the mockingjay. Fire had been labeled Katniss' brand, really having nothing to do with her character personally, but it became her trademark, nonetheless and thus appeared in ample amounts throughout the film, in some form or another. The mockingjay, because of its rather amusing history and eventually, forced connection to Katniss, became a symbol in Panem for revolution, and uprising against the oppressive government.

Just about everything in this movie had metaphorical/symbolic value. Some of the characters' names, alone, symbolized or represented either a person from history or some virtue/element relating to the story's overall theme. Take, for example, the young soccer player, David, and the boy he ends up befriending, Jonathan. Do these names remind you of any people found in the Bible, specifically, the Old Testament? The entire story is highly symbolic of the account of David defeating Goliath.

All of these films contain symbolic or metaphoric elements which may or not be immediately visible. Personally, I admire the films where such symbolism and themes is part of the back drop and not directly "in your face". There is an art to placing such elements in a film and doing so in a way that doesn't detract from the characters and story.

Next time you watch a movie, look closely for themes and symbols hidden within the story. Watch the foregrounds and backgrounds for little details which might hold value. It not only enriches your experience but can be a fun exercise just in itself... sort of like solving a mini-puzzle. With some films, it will be harder than others. Try it.

Incidentally, we at GFP have been brainstorming symbolism and themes to weave into the script of Fugitive. Not only is it an art, but it can actually be pretty difficult.
Nonetheless, to add to the richness of the film is worth the effort.

In Christ,