Essay on Snow Falling on Cedars (film)

Submitted By this-guy
Words: 1424
Pages: 6

People’s communications between one another, or their dialogue, can often lend a hand to explain to outsiders what is going on. It can help to encompass a range of feelings, thoughts, aspirations and states of being. So in a film, when a director takes away dialogue as the primary source of information, other avenues must be explored. Such as during the opening moments of Scott Hicks’s “Snow Falling on Cedars” when the dying fish is shown in full view of the camera, there are no words spoken yet it is already clear that the fish is an important symbolic element. The fish in fact symbolic of different people and their current emotional status. Hicks uses the symbolism of animals to explain the relationships between people, for example when the seagull lands to pick up the fish just after Ishmael says ‘So there is a murder investigation’, it is representative that this is the start of a big problem for Kazuo, who is represented by this particularly fish. Hicks uses the cinematography available to him when he characterises aspects of nature to correlate with the unnatural and wrong actions of the human’s shown in the film.

It is not just animals that are used as examples of how nature represents the lives of the humans in the narrative; this aspect is also evident within the titular trees, the Cedars. The Cedar trees are an important natural figure within the narrative because it is within these cedars that Ishmael and Hatsue first develop their relationship and it is the same place that they have their intimate encounters in. Hicks emphasises the importance of these trees with the utilization of the framing. Whilst the Ishmael and Hatsue are within the tree it is only their faces that are visible, what this represents to the audience is that in this place the two are truly together and are secluded from all outside influence. Framing is used to convey the relationship between Hatsue and Ishmael again when the railing of the balcony in the courtroom cuts half of Ishmael’s face off. This reflects the relationship between the two because it is very likely that the wood that the railing is made of comes from Cedar trees, meaning that as a result of Ishmael’s relationship with Hatsue, a part of his own self has been lost. This point is reiterated again when, during the scene where Ishmael finds out that Hatsue is breaking up with him, a single shot of one side of Ishmael’s face with particular detail motioned towards the eye is shown. This framing here illustrates to the audience that this is the moment in which Ishmael lost a part of himself.

In the same scene where Ishmael learns that Hatsue no longer loves him the use of lighting is also something that can help to create meaning. Ishmael is reading the letter and the light is shone on his face and it creates a shadow, during this scene the shadow is in the main focus rather than Ishmael himself, alluding to how Hatsue’s rejection of his love has turned him into a shadow of a man. Lighting becomes an important symbolic element when Ishmael is filing through the evidence supplied at the lighthouse, in a brief flashback the lighting of Carl’s second lantern is shown which juxtaposes Ishmael finding out that there is evidence on the logbooks that can prove Kazuo innocent in his court case. This is shown in juxtaposition to make the audience understand that Ishmael is enlightening himself upon vital information, which could end up saving Kazuo’s life. A similar image is shown just before Kazuo’s testimony to his own innocence, this time everyone is being directly informed as to what is the truth in relation to this case. Returning to the scene when Ishmael learns that Hatsue is breaking up with him, at the finale of the scene where Ishmael’s arm is removed the lighting is shaky and always changing angles, this reflects of how the truth can possibly be altered by Ishmael as a result of the feelings he now possesses for Hatsue, the truth is becoming less perceivable.