Walking past the TV last Sunday, I caught a few minutes of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on AMC. It was the scene where Kenneth Branagh spots Helena Bonham Carter across an attic or barn or something. Whatever it was, sunlight streamed through a hole in the roof and fell in a circle in the center of the floor. Branagh and Carter ran toward each other to embrace and, you guessed it, they met right in the middle of the pool of light.
Oh, brother, I thought. How manufactured.
And yet–yesterday was a drizzly, overcast afternoon, and while driving on the expressway I came round a bend and saw the downtown area about a mile away. The clouds had broken and sunlight poured onto the skyscrapers. Around them, for as far as I could see, everything was still shrouded in gray. It looked like the gods were shining a spotlight on the heart of the city.
Then it hit me. If I saw that same shot in a movie, I might think it contrived. But, what of the natural image before me? How many scenes have I witnessed like that? Where the moon really is swathed in clouds, where it does rain at a graveside, where children do jump in a pile of leaves. So, I’m sure that somewhere at some time a couple has embraced in a circle of light.
I know there’s a line, where a movie can cross into artificial sentimentality. Still, I’m going to try and remember that city spotlight before making too quick a judgment.