Friday, March 25, 2011

The Mann Silhouette, Part 2: Manhunter

Posing one or more characters against an expanse of space becomes increasingly important to Mann, and will gradually begin to take on more and more existential importance (particularly in the later works, as we'll eventually see). Here, we have a variation on the initial silhouette shot in Thief. But Mann has complicated the visual rhetoric. The placement of Petersen's Will Graham and Farina's Jack Crawford is important, as they are visually unified (in the same shot), but placed at opposite sides of the image, with their backs to each other. Crawford is asking Graham to return to the FBI and resume his profiling job, Graham is reluctant to place himself and his family in harm's way. Both men are visually overwhelmed by the horizon.

Another variation on the above shot, as Crawford briefly visits with Molly Graham. Again, both figures are together-but-separate, and Mann further emphasizes their rigidly oppositional stances with the vertical and horizontal lines of the bay windows.

Mann follows the previous scene with a shot of the empty night sky. This is, if I'm not mistaken, his first stab at this kind of shot - it's not motivated by narrative, nor does it contain any characters. It's certainly moody, and that alone might justify its inclusion. But I think there's more to it than that, and this is in fact Mann's (perhaps not yet fully conscious?) initial attempt at poetic abstraction - the implacable night sky, uncaring and indifferent to the human drama playing out beneath it.

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