Wednesday, 3 March 2010
'Welcome to Hadley. The town and the family. '
Written on the Wind
Directed by Douglas Sirk
Robert Stack's eyes, he doesn't need anything else to act. The film is about the extremes of America in the 1950s. The blue collar folks live in the shadow of the rich and successful – in this case the Hadley family who have an oil firm business. And yet the Hadley's, have desires and wants that they can't fulfil. Two best-friends fall in love with the same girl. Again we have Rock Hudson and Robert Stack who riff off each other superbly - they are polar opposite, Hudson suppresses his love, and Stack is vulnerable, wearing his heart on his sleeve. Stack's character is wonderfully decadent and unstable, going through character transitions in seconds. The juxtaposition of these two characters is emphasised with alcohol, Hudson uses it to quell his emotion and Stack has it to heighten. Stack when drunk speaks rhythmically, he is vulnerable and wounded, he becomes the most important thing in a room; child-like.
The film is not only about extremes in character, the visual perspective is garish and beautiful. The barren oil fields dominate the landscape, as brightly coloured super cars drive on the highway. The interiors represent no ordinary home, no living rooms, only brightly coloured wall paper and lots of flowers. The technicolour gives a texture to the decadent world that these characters live in. Again, Russell Matty's camera work is impressive - lots of internal frames with mirrors, doorways and windows. Sirk seems to excel at the family melodrama but he appears to put these dramas in the context of things that define America. In The Tarnish Angels we had planes, Written on the Wind has oil. Again an evocative picture of America, with the ordinary American 'family'.