In the Cut Reviews
Like her previous classic, The Piano, this one is teeming with eroticism. It's a little too dull at times, which is disappointing, but I still liked it. In fact, I LOVED it. We all love Meg Ryan for her rom-com roles. I think this is her best performance. She's so believable as a woman exploring her sexuality with a potentially dangerous man. It's an unforgettable performance.
I also don't get why so many critics are blasting In the Cut because of its horror aspect. I think it's the movie's biggest strength. It makes it so much darker.
In the Cut is a thriller directed by Jane Campion in 2003. Campion uses a variety of lighting and color techniques that portray the present and foreshadow the positive, negative and neutral feelings and emotions of various characters in the film. Campion plays into what most colors generically represent in films, such as red to signify "disturbance" and blue to signify "impersonality and tranquility" (Slide 4). However, Campion also incorporates neutral colors such as whites and yellows that help distinguish various transitions and settings, which don't depict clear emotions amongst the characters. Campion uses light as a representation for transition as well as a tool to emphasize various significant items in different scenes such as the three of spades tattoo on Detective Rodriguez's wrist, which helps guide the plot. Frannie appears relatively unconcerned for the dangers that she carelessly walks into even though she is consistently aware that they are present. The film incorporates Thompson and Bordwell's idea that "Using Lighting and Color instead of acting to convey an emotion makes the scene more vivid and surprising" (131). Campian's use of color and light to portray emotions and states of being of various characters throughout the film suggest that Campion chose to focus on driving the plot forward with the film's unique artistic qualities rather than enabling audiences to experience an immediate contextual understanding of each shot.
Campion uses warm colors to represent multiple emotions that are felt by Frannie from passion and longing to abandonment and danger. Due to its ties with blood throughout the narrative, the use of the color red suggests that the most prominent emotion felt by Frannie is fear, even though the red colors are rarely depicted in the same shots as the dangers. Notably, Campion incorporates warm color clothing on some of her characters to foreshadow that they will be promptly injured in the film or that they may pose a threat Frannie. For example at 5'01'', Frannie's sister, Pauline walks alongside Frannie wearing a bright orange dress that covers nearly her entire body except for her head and limbs. The dress may be foreshadowing the slow and agonizing death Pauline experiences later on in the film where he entire body is torn apart and left to bleed dry, while her head after being decapitated is left relatively untouched. The way she is murdered is portrayed through the way the dress separates her head from her body at the collar.
That scene wasn't the only instance where articles of clothing may have been used as a way of conveying meaning about the future or present state of the characters. At 5'49'', Frannie's soon to be ex-boyfriend, John Graham nervously stalks Frannie while wearing his bright red baseball cap. The red baseball cap may be indicative of John's clear mental issues. As he is depicted as the kind of individual who has a lot going on in his life and a lot of problems because of it.
Red as a representation of danger isn't only portrayed via clothing. At 16'33'' after Detective Malloy tells Frannie how the first murder happened she pays close attention to the word he uses to describe it as she jots down "disarticulated" in red pen. Taking into account Campion's use of red as a tool to foreshadow events, the fact that Frannie writes down the word disarticulated in red pen suggests that there are more deaths to come that will be conducted in a similar way. There are various flashbacks that depict Frannie's parents skating around an ice rink together, such as at 3'48''. As Frannie's father skates around, Campion depicts a trail of blood left behind in his tracks. These scenes are often complimentary to the scene in, which Frannie writes in red pen as the trails of blood often mimic the curvature of the font of Frannie's handwriting. Frannie's dreams about her parents are left ambiguous because they do not seem to play any sort of role outside of Frannie's mind. Campion appears to be attracted to the idea of fonts and illustrations to help convey meaning to her audience. Chalk is often used to depict foreshadowing images. At 10'17'', a red lighthouse is drawn on the chalkboard of the room that Frannie is teaching in. The drawing is symbolic of the lighthouse that Frannie is brought to at the end of the film with the exact same red coloring and layout. Perhaps the red coloring of the lighthouse is symbolic of the recurring idea that where there is red, there is usually bloodshed.
However, red has other uses in the film as well. Despite its use to allude to danger, Campion also incorporates the color red to represent and foreshadow passion or love. In the opening scene of the film at 1'28'', the camera focuses on a shot of a red flower drawn in chalk on the asphalt road similar to the way she incorporated the lighthouse with red chalk on the classroom board. The red flower is a recurring item in the film and is depicted several times as either being interacted with or symbolizing the passionate feelings of Frannie. At 11'41'', as Frannie steps off of a train, an individual carrying a heart shaped wreath made of red roses passes by her. The individual frames Frannie within the wreath for a very brief moment, which is interesting because the word "MOM" is written in white roses at the top of the wreath. This scene may be a reference to the way Pauline feels about relationships and children when she suggests that Frannie "should have a baby" (28'21''). Both of these scenes suggest that the portrayal of feelings through color does not correspond to Frannie alone, but to a variety of characters. Frannie may not necessarily want to be a mom, which is a desire felt by Pauline. The color red makes another appearance as a symbolic gesture of passion when at 91'01'' Frannie cheerfully watches a stuffed chipmunk doll holding a red heart and dancing around singing the phrase "I think I love you". Frannie doesn't display any fear in this particular scene and the way she stares at the heart suggests she is intrigued by the idea of love. On the other hand in reference to the scene at 11'41'', disregarding the word mom on top of the wreath, it could have just been symbolic of Frannie's sexual desires considering the scene takes place right before she first meets detective Malloy.
Cold colors are also used throughout the film although less prominently to portray an atmosphere of sanctuary that can provide a safe space for thought. Most of the film is filtered with a sepia tone however, a select few scenes exclude this sepia color in exchange for having a blue tint, such as all of the scenes where Frannie takes the metro. The lack of the sepia tones in only a select few scenes indicate that Campion may have wanted to contrast the dangerous outside world with brief moments of tranquility in order to add balance to the film by not making it such a generic thriller that audiences can assume what will happen in each scene. In these select cold color scenes, characters are often depicted as deep in thought as they analyze the events happening around them. For example when Frannie is on the metro at 53'10'', she analyzes a poem written on the steel frame of the inner edge of the train and is nearly completely ignorant of the people around her. In another metro scene at 66'22'', Frannie thoughtfully reads a new poem and acknowledges a bride moping and standing near a metro exit. However, because of the cold lighting, which distances her from reality, Frannie doesn't appear to display any emotions, such as sympathy, which might normally be felt by someone who witnessed such a sight. Similarly at 62'22'' when detective Malloy is sitting a room where a forensic analysis is being conducted, a similar cold color scheme is present. Following this scene, detective Malloy calls Frannie to tell her that he can't concentrate because he is thinking of her, which further depicts his own distraction from reality.
Light in In the Cut is used primarily to increase the audience's focus towards various items in each scene or to display transitions between shots to ultimately guide the narrative. Campion uses shadows to underline what she wants her audience to be looking at and also to limit what her characters can perceive in terms of vision. One of the film's most significant scenes in terms of lighting occurs at 8'22'' when Frannie enters the basement of a bar and witnesses a man receiving oral sex from a woman who is murdered only one scene later. The man's face is completely hidden by the shadows created by the diegetic neon backlights in the bar however; the rest of his body is quite visible as Campion emphasizes particularly on the man's member and a tattoo depicting the three of spades. Thomson and Bordwell mention, "A brightly illuminated patch may draw our eye to a key gesture, while a shadow may conceal a detail or build suspense about what may be present" (125). This idea ties directly into this scene where Frannie's knowledge of this tattoo due to the lighting plays an important role in driving the plot forward. However, her lack of knowledge of the man's face due to the conveniently placed shadows in this particular scene ultimately drives her in the wrong direction.
Yellow is considered as a warm color so when at 9'25'' Frannie is on her way up the stairs from the basement of the bar and a yellow backlight shines from behind her, perhaps she is running away from the danger that warm colors seem to represent throughout the film. This isn't the only instance that Frannie is struck by a bright yellow light. At 12'24'' when Frannie enters her apartment, the entryway is darkly lit and the only diegetic source of light comes from outside. Because of the curtains, that light shines with a bright yellow hue, perhaps as a reminder of Frannie's escape from the danger in the bar and into the safe hands of detective Malloy. Lighting isn't only used as a method of transition out of danger; it may also represent the transition from safety into danger. At 84'09'' when Frannie enters Pauline's apartment, an immediate air of danger is present noticeable particularly by the close ups of displaced items and ominous music playing in the background. However, the most suspenseful factor in the scene is fact that the room is dark and has only one bright diegetic source of light. The bathroom doors have a bright white light streaming through their foggy opening. The scene is almost reminiscent of a light at the end of the tunnel leading to heaven, but the outcome of what's in the bathroom suggests that it may have been some form of satire to that particular scenario. The light doesn't lead to heaven, but instead a kind of hell where Frannie finds Pauline strangled and cut up into pieces. Frannie found her sister there because of the bright white light that acted as a sort of guide by pulling her closer with intrigue even though the idea of what it could be wasn't made obvious.
Campion uses light and color to guide the narrative, however, she doesn't make the path that they lead blatantly obvious. Meanings derived from the colors and lighting that guide the plot are left fairly ambiguous. Campion demonstrates that her use of red may mean blood and death in one scene and love and passion in another. Her use of lighting showcases her ability to smoothly transition between these different emotions without giving away the entire plot. While In the Cut does not follow the typical standards of what a thriller is made to be, it does demonstrate that artistic direction can prosper when it compliments the plot rather than giving the plot away.
Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 1997. Print.
Totaro, Donato. "Seven Beauties Powerpoint (color/comedy)." PowerPoint presentation. Moodle. Concordia University. CA. 22 Jan. 2014.
Jane Campion is a fantastic director and boy she really did a great job with this film!
A lot of people didn't like this film and most of the critics axed it straight away but i stick to my guns on this one... this film is a rare piece of cinema and definitely a curiosity.