Gone With the Wind
‘Gone with the Wind’ is generally considered to be the greatest film ever made in Hollywood history. The film won ten Academy Awards and was based on the 1936 book ‘Story of the old South’ by Margaret Mitchell. A David O. Selznick production, it captures the heart and spirit of the innocent and troublesome times. The film starred Vivienne Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland as it’s main actors. The film’s premiere in 1939 was appreciated by thousands of southerners and was a huge phenomenon worldwide.
The narrative takes place around the American civil war of 1861-1865. The opening credits read of the pre-war events in the South and are depicted in a fashion that would have been similar to what would have been read by the people of the South at that time. The story told is that of the heroine Scarlett O’ Hara, a selfish Southern girl who’s “passion for living” brings about complicated love triangles and sees her through danger and threat. It is only at the end of the film that both Scarlett and viewers alike discover what is truly important.
Upon it’s release the film was renowned for it’s new innovation of then, modern day techniques and technology. The film is over three hours long and it was one of the first films to use Technicolour, the height of technology of it’s day. Aside from Technicolour, the film hugely depended on variations in music and lighting for depth to set the tone of the production. As it was a period film, extra precautions had to be carefully executed in order to gain authenticity and acclaim from critics. It achieved both. Magnificent sets and costumes, which have yet to be matched, renewed the ‘old South’ to it’s former glory.
A scene from the film that I am going to study is the finale scene. In it, is probably the most famous line in film history. In the build-up to this final scene, Scarlett’s love interest’s wife Melanie has died. Scarlett rushes home to find Rhett, he rugged but good-hearted man who loves her, to tell him that she has realised she loves him and not the “wooden-headed” Ashley Wilkes. With whom she has been infatuated for the duration of the narrative. However, according to Rhett in this scene, it is too late for them to be together and from there occurs Scarlett’s fateful downfall.
The scene opens with Scarlett and Rhett standing at a door frame. Lighting plays a huge factor in this scene to set it’s dark tone. The room is very dark with only a few candles in the background giving some dim light. The two characters present in this scene are dressed completely in black. When comparing this, the final scene, to the opening scene one notices the contrast in colour. The opening scene is bright and airy with people smiling, however the final scene is dark and enclosed and is significant to the changes that Scarlett has gone through inbetween. In the first sequence of the scene Scarlett is desperately trying to convince Rhett that she loves him. Here the two main characters play off each other in opposition. Scarlett is hysterical with desperation and tears are running down her face, whereas Rhett is calm, dignified and almost comical, “Here, take my handkerchief. Never at any crisis in your life have I known you to have a handkerchief.”
From here Scarlett rushes out onto the staircase after Rhett, and as he turns to face her the camera zooms in for a profile shot on the side by side faces. Soft but foreboding music can be heard faintly in the background. This music gets dramatically louder as Scarlett runs down the stairs after Rhett. The music descends to the rhyme of her descending footsteps to add an effect of sadness and impending doom. As she calls after him in a stereotypical ‘woman’ way, he opens the door and pauses. Beyond the front door dense fog suffocates the exit and offers the viewer a sense of oblivion outside of the domain. The climax of the scene is given in a single line but delivered with such swift canniness, that the viewer can’t help but smirk. “Where will I go, what shall I do?” “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!” Joyful music is ironically cast as he walks contentedly into the fog and disappears.
The camera focuses on Scarlett’s drawn face. A line which is continuously used throughout the film is repeated a final time, “I won’t think about it now, I’ll think about it tomorrow.” But defies herself, “But I have to think about it now!” This breaks the pattern through the film and portrays a change in circumstance. It is very out of character. She retreats from the door and collapses in a black heap on the staircase and sobs uncontrollably. Any music stops briefly and then changes as a montage of familiar voices with previous dialog enters her mind. When it seems that all hope is lost her father’s voice is the first to remind her of what she still has something more important than anything else. What follows are three sets of dialog from three evident people in her life. They are repeated over and over as she raises her head very slowly in realisation. Light on her face enters the screen once more in contrast to the dark scene. The word ‘Tara’ is repeated four times at the end of the montage and is said louder and louder until it is shouted.
Music that is fitting of her new found comprehension plays in the background as she gazes into the distance just aside from the camera lens. The camera focuses on her in a full on shot. This is a big turnaround moment in the finale and the climax of the film. She realises that she has Tara and it brings hope to her, “Home, I’ll go home and I’ll think of someway to get him back”. The final line of the entire film is said with great emotion, optimism and intrigue, “After all, tomorrow is another day!”
Her face fades out into the ‘Gone with the wind” trademark scene of a silhouette standing on a hill overlooking Tara in all it’s splendour. She has gone home. The emotional music of the previous scene runs into the iconic ‘Gone with the wind’ theme music. This final image is symbolic of all she has gone through and seen over the years. Love, war, survival and a civilisation gone with the wind. The camera slowly zooms out from the image of her on the hill as the inspirational theme music roars with orchestras and choirs. The house comes into view and a red sky is reminiscent of the end of the story. The closing shot is still except for the leaves blowing on the tree on top of the hill. This is a clever take on the words of the title of the film and symbolises the true meaning of the story. The epic theme song reaches a dramatic close as the words ‘The End’ in italics, sprawl across the legendary scene. The screen goes dark and brings about the end to one of the most brilliant films ever created.