Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Reflection

In The Brave One (2007), Neil Jordan uses reflections to suggest a character trapped by circumstances.

From the very first image of Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) as a translucent spectral projection against the glass walls of the recording booth where she delivers her morning show, to the later instances of painful self-reflection - as the same character is forced to question whether the severity of her actions is justified by the sense of overwhelming loss felt in the wake of her fiancé's murder - the visual design of the film repeatedly reinforces the idea of a person struggling to break free.


The Brave One directed by Neil Jordan, 2007:

The sense of isolation and claustrophobia that develops during the weeks and months that follow the initial attack is intensified through the framing of shots; the camera exaggerating Erica's emotional detachment by presenting her as a ghost, literally just drifting, unloved and unseen, through the relics of a previous existence. These images, like the character, obscured and fragmented, flatten the sense of perspective. There is no clear sense of morality for Erica, as Jordan's overpowering depth of field reduces the character to an out of focus blemish against the harsh hyper-reality of the city that overwhelms her; just a growing sense of impotence yielding to desperation.

The presentation of Erica as a woman numbed by the world that she inhabits brings to mind the character of Simone (Cathy Tyson) from Jordan's earlier film Mona Lisa (1986). Both women are placed like insects beneath the glass, studied by sympathetic male characters that, in general, are oblivious to their true nature as hostages to emotional bitterness.

Jordan makes the connection explicit as Erica, like Simone in the earlier film, is caught in the reflection of a car's rear-view mirror. Unlike other shots in which Erica is acknowledging her own psychological metamorphosis from liberal-minded media personality to skulking night-time avenger, this moment - as with the moment in Mona Lisa - provides the audience with enough room to consider the effect that this world with its cruelty, apathy and sense of moral decay has had on these characters; allowing us to question, personally and individually, whether the end really justifies the means.

The way the image is presented, with the character literally and physically confined to a frame within a frame - with the world, this backdrop of squalor and human suffering surrounding her, out of focus, but still dominating the screen - deliberately establishes this character as a prisoner; not just to the world and this situation that she's created, but to a particular state of mind.


Mona Lisa directed by Neil Jordan, 1986:


The Brave One directed by Neil Jordan, 2007:

Throughout the film, every action poses a question for the character, which Jordan emphasises with these moments of literal reflection. Trapped, psychologically as well as physically in a cycle of violence - slowly fading into the background of the city she once celebrated in mawkish prose that now seems even more deceitful when repeated against this milieu of violence and retribution - Erica is forced to look long and hard to find the person she was when faced with the person she is.

During the course of the film's journey, every violent act removes this character even further from the world of the living; killing the spirit of life and leaving only the faint outline a body without a soul. As she studies her own face reflected against the artefacts of this world to make sense of who she is there is only the traces of violence, the loveless eyes and the ghost of who she was, caught, forever, in this labyrinth of despair, desperate to find a way out.


The Brave One directed by Neil Jordan, 2007: