Shots 47 & 48
We’re establishing a new rhythm, so let’s take a look at two shots at once.
Instead of keeping with our previously established circle of disaster and jar smashing, here we see Carl having trouble with his tie and Ellie giving him a hand.
We have a mix of static compositions with dynamic character action and a small camera move to reset the frame. This combination is creating a sense of routine, and pushing aside the momentum toward saving up for Paradise Falls.
The story hasn’t told you they’ve stopped trying to fill the jar, but the camera is hinting at it.
Consider how the small move of the camera helps to make the jump cut between these two shots feel less jarring. That little pan to the right with Carl opening the door and Ellie walking out smooths over the roughness of jumping from one day to the next in the same spot.
The jump cuts will get sharper with the next few shots, so this camera move helps ease us into the new language this sequence will be using.
Also, pay attention to the uniforms. These are their zoo clothes. We’re leaving behind the story arc of trying to fill the jar and leaving for Paradise Falls and replacing it with a series of shots about them getting into a routine related to their daily work at the zoo. A routine based around Ellie fixing Carl’s tie before they head out the door.
Shots 49 through 54
The previous pair of shots established a new sequence. We’re looking at the repetition of Ellie straightening Carl’s tie before they go to work. That’s the element that’s remaining the same. So what changes as the sequence progresses?
For one thing, the ties. Tie after tie shows up in quick succession, signalling the passage of days.
But look at the quick moment where the camera is set further back for one shot, revealing Ellie and Carl’s graying hair. That quick moment shows the viewer that we’re not just witnessing a week’s worth of mornings, but that this sequence is compressing years into the span of seconds.
The moment also helps to break up the visual rhythm and keep things from becoming repetitive. There are three straight on shots of ties before it, then two shots from opposite angles after. The revealing shot marks a break in the pattern.
Even with the static shots, reminding us of the routine nature of this action and how it’s removed from their larger goal of reaching Paradise Springs, the cinematography maintains some visual dynamism through Ellie’s quick motions, the speedy cuts, and the diagonals created by the ties themselves and the angles in the last two shots shown here. The sequence is trying to prepare us for the idea that they’ve pushed Paradise Falls to the side, but they’re still an energetic couple.
Shots 55 through 58
There’s a neat trick happening here. First, there’s the different styles of ties, telling us that enough time is passing between shots for trends to change. This gives us a sense of a rapidly accelerating compression of time.
Next, there’s the juxtaposition of the static, centered position of the tie in the frame with the changing proportions of the ties and Carl within that framing. It’s not just the size of the ties that are changing with the years. Carl’s weight and posture are also in flux. This further adds to our sense of how much time is passing between shots.
Our ability to notice these differences is not just the product of the framing, but the use of an unchanging shirt, suspenders, and sleeve garters. These markers let us see how other changes impact them.
We’re breaking rhythm again, signalling the start of a new sequence of shots. Two things change the established syntax of the previous shots.
- Carl is wearing a bow tie, something he hasn’t done since his wedding.
- The shot moves, pulling back to reveal more information, a strategy used previously in the montage, but one that’s been missing from the rapid fire shots of Carl’s changing ties.
The reveal of this shot is how much time has passed. Carl’s face tells the story. All it takes is a look at the gray hair and the lines around his eyes to express to the audience that decades have passed since the last time we saw Carl wear a bow tie. Again, we’re seeing the use of repeated objects and images put up against new information to help focus on the meaning of what’s changed.
Also look at how as the camera pulls back it brings Ellie into the picture again, similar to the second shot at their wedding. Carl’s focus on her is preparing us for the next shot, which will give us a better look at Ellie.
Now we get the full reveal of Ellie and Carl at their current age. Ellie’s has glasses now, and her hair has gone gray like Carl’s. The fact that they’re in their same zoo uniforms from decades back highlights these changes.
Let’s look at the framing. We start with the reverse shot showing Ellie looking at Carl and nodding at him after she’s finished straightening his tie. It lets us focus on her face for a moment to register the changes specific to her.
But look between them. In the background are the mural of their house on Paradise Falls and the mantle full of mementos. They’re distant. A little out of focus. The placement tells us something about the place those goals and dreams have in their present.
The camera pans to the side to give us a shot of the two of them together. We have motion again, which connects back to the previous kinetic shots full of life and joy. It brings us around to look at a mirror, where we get to see Carl and Ellie together. Ellie gives him a kiss. Carl laughs. It’s a happy, slightly silly moment between the two.
And look at that framing. We still get the back of Carl’s head in the shot. We’re not just seeing the moment, we’re seeing Carl see the moment. Carl’s perspective is going to become more important as we head toward the end of this montage, and as we get into the rest of the film.
It’s keeping us aware that this montage of their married life isn’t just telling us about the two of them, it’s about how Carl sees this part of his life.
Look at all the photos on the walls, and the clipping on the mirror itself. Look at the mural and the knick knacks. This is a house filled with memories. This shot is another memory, and its framing reminds us about this. The physical presence of memory in Carl’s life. The way that he and Ellie were constantly documenting their life and their goals.
Carl’s balloons are still able to lift his cart, but now Carl is prepared for it. It’s a reminder to the audience about the rules of this world and about the logic behind Carl using these balloons later in the movie.
We have Ellie with her camera, taking a picture. Again, she’s focused on making images.
We have children. Think about Carl and Ellie’s previous attachment to the zoo. Before, they were obsessed with South America, and the framing of the zoo reminded us of that. Now when we return to the zoo, we don’t see any signs or symbols directly referring to South America, but we see them entertaining children.
Think about what could keep them at that same job for all those years. Think about the shared pain of being unable to having the children of their own they wanted. Think about how happy they look putting a smlie on that boy’s face.
A couple dancing alone in their home. It’s sweet. It’s clichéd. You’ve probably seen it everywhere from earnest romantic films to commercials. They even have candles out. But here it has a particular resonance.
First, they’re at home. Of course they’re at home. These two don’t need to go out dancing. They’ve spent so much of their lives insulated in this home, perfectly happy with each other. What more do they need?
Again, we’re using spaces we’re familiar with. The mantle full of memories and keepsakes stands out in the back, and as they dance out of the shot, the camera lingers on something: The Paradise Falls Jar.
It’s there on the shelf. Dusty. Forgotten. It’s not even the original jar. It’s a reminder of that first jar. A reminder of that drive to reach their goal of going to Paradise Falls. And it sits back on a shelf, propping up some books.
Think about the last time the camera lingered after Carl and Ellie left the frame, when it focused on the tire that was about to go flat. This moment is telling us something. It’s preparing us to think about what that jar sitting on that shelf means.