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Seeing the Light
by Sarah L. Polson

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My boyfriend and I took a vacation last week and didn't have our usual movie service. As we slowly went through movie withdrawal, we finally had to give in to the urge and go to the little corner store to check out what they had.

It turned out to be a good thing. Lack of movie service and their limited selection led us to choose Frailty, Bill Paxton's first try at directing. Neither of us would have probably thought to get it otherwise, and we both ended up really liking it.

This is one movie you definitely don't want to know the ending going into it. You're going to want the full experience of all the twists and turns. So, I'm going to stick with one scene in particular for this column and try not to give it away for you.

The story, to keep it very simple, is that Matthew McConaughey's character, who I'll call Meiks, has gone to the FBI with details about a serial killer. Partway through his story, the FBI agent and Meiks take a car ride to where Meiks says the killer has put his victims' bodies.

It's during this ride that viewers get to see a great use of profile light. Both Meiks and the FBI agent are lit only from one side so one side of their faces is in light and the other is completely in shadow. You get an occasional glimpse of their entire faces only as they pass by street lights.

Meiks continues with his story as they travel, which I'm sure many viewers like myself were already wondering about how true it is. The profile light enhances that feeling. We're only seeing half of Meiks' face could we only be seeing part of the truth?

As much as we might doubt the story though, the lighting also serves to give us some assurance that we're at least getting some truth from it. That's where the glimpses of his full face provided by the street lights come in. Just like we're getting flashes of his entire face, we may be getting flashes of the truth.

What intrigued me most about the scene was that both Meiks and the FBI agent are in profile light. In many movies, what we assume to be the "bad guy" is only half lit like that so we have a visual cue that he has a dark side. "Good guys" like FBI agents are supposed to be fully lit so it's obvious to us that their good.

In this case, the lighting not only leaves us wondering if Meiks is really good or bad, but it also casts that same feeling on the FBI agent. Along those same lines, you get the feeling the answers he gives to Meiks' questions aren't exactly fully true either.

The best part of this movie is that you don't really know what to believe. Bill Paxton does an excellent job getting that across in just this one scene. Had I known the talent level he showed in this movie and the incredible story, I might not have waited so many years to see this one.

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Smoke and Mirrors
Every other Wednesday

Movie magic isn't just about special affects. Sarah L. Polson shows you the other tricks and techniques used to manipulate movie goers.

Other Columns
Other columns by Sarah L. Polson:

A Whale of a Tale

Violence with a Purpose

Slo-mo, The Weapon of Choice

In Living Color

I'm Ready for My Close-up

All Columns

Sarah L. Polson
As a journalist from the midwest, Sarah L. Polson has a few years under her belt writing in the newspaper world. Having worked mainly in news writing, deviating from "just the facts" is a new experience for her.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Sarah L. Polson by clicking here.

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