Scene Analysis 4×07
“Composition” is the art of arranging objects in a frame. In cinematography, it refers to how the elements of the scene appear on screen. The purpose is to create a pattern that is visually pleasing to the eye, but also aides in the telling of a story. The arrangement of objects and actors, the lighting, and the color scheme can convey everything from emotion to relationship status to foreshadowing. The position of the characters relative to one another influences how the overall scene is interpreted. Sometimes, a scene with no spoken dialogue can have a greater impact on the psyche of the viewer than one where characters are delivering lines. A pivotal scene in which the actors have no speaking roles, but a powerful message is communicated solely based on the composition, takes place at the end of 4×07 between Mickey, Ian, and Svetlana.
In 4×07, Mickey finds Ian unconscious outside of the club and carries him home. Ian, draped over Mickey’s bed, is at the forefront of the shot which indicates he is the focal point of this scene. Low lighting from the surrounding lamps radiates the room in a warm glow that illuminates Ian’s face and arms. His skin glistens in the soft sheen, a peaceful expression washes across his face as he rests atop clean white sheets, bestowing an aura of innocence about him; Ian appears almost angelic.
Shameless often uses religious parallels in it’s storytelling and the imagery in this particular shot is no exception. Ian’s placement on the bed is akin to a sacred lamb placed on the altar. The lamb is a symbol of purity and innocence. In religious contexts, it’s sacrifice restores the balance of sin. As demonstrated in previous scenes, Ian has already come to terms with his sexuality and accepted his true self. Mickey, on the other hand, is seated in a darkened corner of the background. Dressed all in black, he fidgets and frets; his posture rigid and hunched over. His unwavering attention is fixated on Ian until Svetlana appears off screen. Mickey is the watchful shepherd guarding over his most prized possession. But, he has continued to struggle to secure his own redemption.
If Mickey’s body language alone wasn’t enough to express his deep concern for Ian and his own troubled mind, a close-up of his face undeniably displays the emotion. Looking up to meet Svetlana’s gaze, his eyes glassy and brimmed with tears, is the dramatic reveal of how truly frightened and brokenhearted he is over Ian.
Inwardly, Mickey has acknowledged his lack of self-acceptance as the reason for this current predicament. He blames himself as the direct reason Ian left in the first place; the indirect reason Ian fell into this drug fueled abyss. And, for the first time, Mickey unflinchingly allows a third party to witness his anguish and affection for Ian. He doesn’t attempt to hide the sentiment in the slightest, but rather meets it head on. For Mickey, this is his first step to overcoming the shame he’s harbored his entire life regarding his sexuality. With merely a glance and not a single spoken word, Mickey infers the confrontation of his own inner demon, challenges Svetlana’s judgement, and acquiesces to Ian’s desire for Mickey to outwardly admit that he loves him.
As this occurs, Svetlana hangs in the doorway. Wrapped in nothing but a towel, her near nakedness and freshly showered skin hints at her vulnerability. Slowly, the awareness dawns on her that the man sprawled across her bed is the same man who instigated Terry’s instruction to “fuck the faggot out of [Mickey].” At this realization, her hands slide down her pregnant stomach; an instinctual gesture people use to comfort or protect themselves from a negative energy or a perceived threat. Also, it is a subliminal message to Mickey to remind him she carries his unborn child, the consolation prize he received for choosing the “straight” and narrow path.
In addition to the characters’ body language, their physical proximity is a clue to the complexity of their affiliation with each other. The distance between actors not only alludes to their relationship, but also defines it.
The vantage point from behind Mickey’s shoulder creates a diagonal line to deliberately deposit Svetlana at the farthest point away as possible in the frame. As Mickey occupies the lower right-hand corner of the screen looking upward at Svetlana, who occupies the upper left-hand corner looking down at Mickey, a maximum degree of separation is achieved. Sharp camera angles such as this one exaggerates the notion that these characters not only dislike one another, but their points of view regarding the situation are at entirely opposite ends. Ian occupies the neutral position, laying in a horizontal line across the center of the shot, but he is the catalyst for the tension between Svetlana and Mickey.
The use of color can have multiple functions. Certain colors elicit a psychological reaction, they can draw focus to a significant detail, set a tone, represent character traits, and show changes in character arcs over the course of the story.
Svetlana and Ian wear a similar shade of green as they represent the two components between which Mickey must decide. Green is the color of life and is associated with nature, growth, balance and harmony. Green can also symbolize envy and greed. Ian is Mickey’s life force and embodies his genuine desires. Whereas, Svetlana represents the lie Mickey is living instead. Another color that begins to creep up around Mickey as he closes over his arc is the color purple. Often associated with enlightenment and transformation, the shades of purple surrounding Mickey intensify as his coming out process evolves, climaxing in the Baptism scene where he is fully engulfed in purple light. At this point in his story, there is only a hint of purple splashed on the wall in the form of a poster and a purple pillow propped next to Ian on the bed.
As Mickey has traversed on his personal redemption journey, arduously conquering the smaller obstacles as he encountered them, he eventually approaches a fork in the road. The heart of his dilemma has always been his inability to accept his true self at the risk of social and familial rejection. Caged by a self-loathing deeply ingrained by a closed-minded and abusive upbringing, he yearns to find his wings, but is too afraid to chance the path less traveled. Now, he is presented with an impasse, forced to come up with a resolution, or choose between Ian and Svetlana. All of these little pieces of Mickey’s story, his frustration with himself, his disdain for Svetlana, and his worry and love for Ian, become plainfully obvious during this short 3 minute scene without dialogue; an absolute tribute to art of non-verbal communication and composition in filmography.