Friday, July 18, 2014

The Immigrant: Strange Light

 The Immigrant is one of the most beautifully shot films of the year, and the first time I saw it there were several images that stuck in my mind long afterward. Among them was this shot of Ewa lying in bed after she's left the deportation center and agreed to work as a prostitute for Bruno.

The Immigrant contains lots of shots of Ewa lying in bed, but usually the lighting is cold and unflattering, with her face registering desperation and/or weariness. This however is the first time we see her after she's been fully subjected to her demeaning profession. Initially I was a bit surprised with the way Gray lit the scene. Golden rays of light pour through the window, giving the room a romantic, cozy glow. The way the shadows play across her skin (and because it's the first time we see her with her hair down) made me think Gray was turning to another dream sequence, until we realize there's a customer in the room and Ewa has reached her most degraded state yet. But by bathing the scene with such a warm glow, Gray seems to be focusing less on Ewa's sense of guilt than on the fact that she's now a little bit closer to her goal of saving her sister. To simply say that the lighting and the hair suggest heat, sin, and passion would be reductive. It's a comforting scene, really (the customer even gives her extra money for her sister), which, like those mentioned yesterday, bespeaks Gray's intelligence as a filmmaker. One of his goals is to make Ewa's experience a dark and harrowing one. She's in a new land that seems to be trying to push her back where she came from. And yet Gray isn't out to hit the viewer over the head with her difficulties, but rather to give them an experience in tune with the complicated nature of man. In Gray's world, pure evil, pure oppression, simply does not exist. Thus, this scene, which certainly has all sorts of negative undertones, doesn't come across as icy and terrible as it could have been. It's sad, for sure, but it's also something more. 

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