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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Subtle Anticipations in Film Narrative: Foreshadowing A Single Man

Tom Ford’s approach in screenwriting and directing his first feature film, A Single Man (2009), which is based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel of the same title, can be characterized as thoroughness oriented to the use of film as art not merely for visual storytelling, but also to probe the depths of human meaning and present the audience with a thesis and thus something to ponder. As Ford reveals in his oral commentary to the film, that thesis is that we should live in the present, attending to it more closely, because today might be our last day of life. George, the film’s protagonist, supposes that in intending to commit suicide at the end of the day—the film being confined temporally to it—he chooses the final day. Yet though an exquisite use of prefigurements—foreshadowings that subtly anticipate. Just as a film with a depth of meaning operates at different levels in the human psyche, the prefigurements in such a film should also be hung at different levels with care—and varying distance’s from the tree’s center. For such meaning is nuanced, or multivalent, rather than entirely opaque and transparent. In this essay, I take a look at Ford’s use of prefigurements to anticipate George’s death as an event that is finally unanticipated, at least from the standpoint of George’s plan to kill himself at the day’s end.


The full essay is at “A Single Man.”