Love between Two Hearts in the Movie the Purple Rose of Cairo

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Updated: Oct 16, 2021
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Love between Two Hearts in the Movie the Purple Rose of Cairo essay

Pouya 1

The Purple Rose of Cairo (dir. Woody Allen, 1985), set in New Jersey during the Great Depression in 1935, is a Drama/Fantasy film about an unhappy waitress, Cecilia (Mia Farrow), who uses movies as a mode to escape from her miserable, dull life until one of the characters from her favorite movie, Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels), walks out of the movie screen to meet her. As they explore each other’s different worlds, depicted in this specific scene, they begin to fall in love with each other; however, a love triangle is formed when Gil Sheppard (Jeff Daniels), the actual actor that portrays Tom, visits Cecilia to manipulate her into falling in love with him, so as to reject Tom and force him back into the movie screen. When the credits begin rolling, the film induces a sense of self-awareness, with the aid of multiple settings and exemplary distance of framing, within not only Cecilia but every spectator returning back to reality, which prompts them to begin questioning their own relationship with movies. Therefore, The Purple Rose of Cairo is a highly self-reflexive film that, with the assistance of this particular scene, is able to make the spectators critically self-aware of their relationship to movies.

The first formal device of cinematography used in The Purple Rose of Cairo is distance of framing. The first shot of this scene is an extreme long shot of Tom and Cecilia, which depicts a frame-within-the-frame, where Tom’s world is the black-and-white screen, and Cecilia’s world

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Pouya 2

is the colored theater in New Jersey. The purpose of this two shot is to simultaneously depict the drastic difference between their worlds, where Cecilia represents the average spectator, while Tom represents the charming character from the fantasy world. As the scene progresses and Cecilia becomes further assimilated into Tom’s fictional world, the distance of framing changes from mostly medium shots and medium long shots to a medium close-up of Cecilia applauding Kitty Haynes’ performance in shot 10. This one shot of Cecilia, who occupies the role of the average spectator in the film-within-the-film, represents the relationship between medium specificity and spectatorship. Director Woody Allen reversed all the ground rules that make cinema different from the other art forms in The Purple Rose of Cairo in order to depict the dangers of spectators obsessing over movies as a mode to escape their unfulfilled, tedious lives. Films can distort our vision of reality and the future by enabling us to distract ourselves from the real issues instead of taking action and actually improving our lives for the better.

The second formal device of mise-en-scene used in The Purple Rose of Cairo is the multiple settings. In order to depict its highly self-reflexive state on the relationship between spectators and movies, The Purple Rose of Cairo makes use of completely different settings to further reiterate Tom and Cecilia’s drastically different worlds. The first setting used in the scene, shots 1 and 2, is the New Jersey movie theater, which represents Cecilia’s real world, a poverty-stricken nation following the effects of the Great Depression, hence its color presentation. The two other settings in the film consist of the NYC apartment and Copacabana nightclub, shots 3-16, which are depicted in black-and-white so as to easily assist the spectator in differentiating between reality and fantasy. Furthermore, the scene begins with a two shot of Tom and Cecilia in the New Jersey movie theater, shot 1; later on however, there is a one shot of

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Cecilia applauding in the Copacabana nightclub, shot 10. By using these two drastically different settings, these shots symbolize how movies tend to draw in the spectators with their magical, tempting sway, but then afterwards when the spectators become entirely obsessed and dependent on the film, they are left alone to feel empty without it. The spectators are mostly self-aware of their relationship with films and how it is not truly real; however, they are so consumed by the fantasy world that they will forever be entrapped within its realms.    

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Love between two hearts in the movie The Purple Rose of Cairo. (2021, Oct 16). Retrieved from