Movie Fact #744 – May 7th, 2015:

According to the DVD director’s commentary, 2002’s “Far from Heaven” is made in the style of many 1950’s films, notably those of German director Douglas Sirk. Haynes, along with the crew, did this in every aspect of the film from the writing to the background…to hair color.

To do this, director Todd Haynes created color palettes for every scene in the film and was careful and particular in his choices, emphasizing experience with color in such scenes as one in which the characters Cathy Whitaker (Played by Julianne Moore), Eleanor Fine (Played by Patricia Clarkson), and their friends are all dressed in reds, oranges, yellows, browns, and greens. Haynes also played with the color green, using it to light forbidden and mysterious scenes which Haynes employed both in the scene in which Frank Whitaker (Played by Dennis Quaid) visits a gay bar and when Cathy goes to the restaurant in a predominantly black neighborhood. Haynes also used shots and angles that would have been standard in Sirk’s films and era, which was made possible by the film’s cinematographer, Edward Lachman and sound by Kelley Baker along with music by composer Elmer Bernstein.

Lachman created the 1950’s “look” with the same type of lighting techniques and lighting equipment (incandescent), and employs lens filters that would have been used in a 1950s-era melodrama. The script itself employed over-the-top, melodramatic dialogue, and Bernstein’s score is reminiscent of those he himself had composed 40 and 50 years earlier. The sound, done by Baker, also uses a lot of foley to make more prominent the sound of rustling clothes and loud footsteps. As you can guess, this was a sound technique that was used more in 1950’s-era film.

Also in the commentary, Haynes notes that he was also influenced by director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1974 film “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” where, like in Fassbinder’s film, in “Far from Heaven” Haynes portrays feelings of alienation and awkwardness. An example of this is, instead of cutting to the next scene, Haynes sometimes lingers on a character for a few seconds longer than comfortable to the viewer. This is the same technique used by Fassbinder. Did we miss any of Hanyes vast 1950’s influence? Oh yes…set design.

When Cathy drives her car through town, rather than filming inside the car as it actually moves, the car is filmed still with artificial backgrounds seen through the windows, reminiscent of older films. Haynes states on the DVD commentary that one of these scenes re-uses the artificial background first used in a scene from 1955’s “All That Heaven Allows”. Safe to say his inspirations were no more present than in literal painted backgrounds. Course…lead actress Julianne Moore had her own opinion about the design as well.

Although Haynes disagreed at first, Moore was the one who suggested that her character Cathy had to be blonde. Haynes later told her she was right, but in doing so had to do some changes in the film, like the color of the scarf, in order to fit that within the color palette.

It’s hard to make original material…but perhaps it is equally hard to honor those who inspired you to create a film to begin with. For Haynes, it seems like it was a battle between the old and the old because, as you can see by all these inspirations, Haynes had a lot of film inspirations to put into order to make this film honor the past in it’s entirety.

Published in: on May 8, 2015 at 1:48 AM  Leave a Comment  

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