"Directed by Sam Mendes" : themes and motives of the director you can find in Skyfall

edited January 2013 in Skyfall Posts: 268
Hi everyone !
I wanted to share this english version of an article I wrote on my french blog about James Bond (http://jamesbonderies.free.fr/index.php/01/directed-by-sam-mendes-english-version/).

For those who are familiar with the films of Sam Mendes, maybe you've noticed some of the themes and techniques he uses in many of his films. Some of these typical elements of Mendes' work can be found in Skyfall too.
Here is a review of some of them.

Stinging in the rain
In most movie, the weather stays sunny so that we can see the action. Rain and bad weather have mostly a narrative rôle to complicate the action of the heroes.
In Mendes' films, the rain is mostly used to set the tone and put emphasize on the characters and their evolution.
This weather technique is at the center of some of his films like "The Road to perdition" where all liquid elements are linked with rain. American Beauty and Jarhead (although with oil rain in this particular film) are also using the rain as a environment when the personality of the characters come to be revealed.
This is an efficient technique : if you think about it, it's a way of restraining the environment in which the characters are evolving, isolating them and forcing them to get closer and share a kind of intimacy, in which some important things can be revealed. Jarhead also features the use of flames in the night that bring the characters in the shadows, isolating them as well as putting the emphasis on them.

01pluie4.jpg
Skyfall features such a use : first of all in the London Sequence. It rained already in QOS, but with no such significance. Here, the rainy weather isolate M from the rest of the secret services (remember when she turns after Bond is shot down, and when she writes the necrology). It is also when it is raining that M and 007 finally get reunited, and Bond confesses they "may have been in the game for too long".
The end sequence is also pretty unusual for a Bond film. The first assault on the house is film in a grey twilight that makes the picture very dark, hence putting more emphasis on the silhouette of the opponents and on M/Bond/Kincade, than on the usual explosive landscape. As the house exposes, the all chase scene is shot only through the light of flames (as in Jarhead), featuring silhouette more than people running away and toward light in the dark. This process is quiet effective in shooting what I find to be one of the more serious and tensed ending fight of the franchise. And it is quiet typical of Mendes to shoot its final "reglement de compte" in a shadowy and rainy environment.

The Pyscho character

Each and everyone of Mendes' film features a type of crazy character. Although not the main antagonists, these figures often compel the hero to go forward in its evolution and on his path. There are different kind of crazy characters, but each of them is a person living on the border of society. He seems completely crazy, but as the film goes along and the violence of the other characters explodes, you realize that the pyscho is maybe the most rational, lucid and clear-sighted about what's going on.
Such Psycho are the character of Ricky Fitts, filming his neighbours in American Beauty, the serial killer obsessed by death and photography played by Jude Law in the road to perdition, the great Michael Shannon as borderline American in Revolutionnay Road and Maggy Gyllenhaal as crazy overprotecting mother in Away we go. Jarhead is some kind of an exception since all the soldiers are mentally unstable. But even in this movie, the one who's at the border of the group (Troy who illegally enrolled in the army) is the character on the side who endures the pressure for the longer time and pushes the hero forward.

02pycho4.jpg

James Bond opponent are rarely sane of spirit. most of them are megalomaniac, ruthless and cruel. But if you think about it, most of them behave apparently normally, looking cold and dead calm. This is not the case of Silva who is obviously crazy, adopt an expressive attitude and claims his obsession for destruction and shadows. He's like most of the Mendes' psychos : living in the shadows but acting brightly : it gets quiet disturbing on the screen, and like in other Mendes' films, it forces the hero (M and Bond) to go forward if they want to get on top of the situation, instead of trying to contain the evil.

Home

The figure of the House and the quest for Home is THE central theme of Mendes' film. This is no coincidence if Bond finds himself going back to its origins in Skyfall, to confront evil there.
In Mendes's films or the actions is centred in the house (American Beauty/Revolutionary Road) providing an environment where the characters are imprisoned and try to break free), or it is set as the goal of the path followed by the hero (Jarhead/Away We go/ Road to Perdition). Usually the film concludes in these house, but this building is usually not the place for an happy end. Most of characters meet there death here, and most of the time, the place of 'Home' is only a stage in the process of going beyond, inviting the hero to go forward toward their future. This is how it ends in Away we go or Jarhead (when the soldier realizes that the place he's searching is still in the desert).

03home3.jpg
Skyfall Lodge fits exactly in this scheme. M and Bond hope to be able to solve their problems there, but if the house provide them with shelters and weapon, it is also a place of danger where death has to be confronted to overcome the situation. Here, 007 even has to destroy it entirely to be able to survive, despite the hard stone walls.
Sam Mendes seems to enjoy and highlight this return to Home of 007, by taking his time and long shots of 007 and M contemplating the moors where he must finally come back.

Windows and Reflections

These two elements are the main techniques around which Mendes works to shoots his movie. Some of his films (like Road to Perdition or Revolutionary Road) have their most important moments shoots through glass and reflections.
Windows and glass in Mendes' films have a narrative role : it enables the characters to observe and try to understand each other from the distance without being seen. This is the central aspect of American Beauty for example (neighbours spying on each other), but also of Road to perdition (assassin's being reflected through windows). But these windows are also a way to define the character and what's going on inside his mind. It symbolizes the border that prevents the characters from escaping their home (Revolutionary Road), but also that keeps them away from their past (Jarhead) or family (Road to Perdition).
Gazing by the window is a way to define the personality of the character, his expectations and aspiration as well as his current position (stuck in a situation he cannot escape).

04window4.jpg
These two functions (narrative and defining) are both present in Skyfall. You all have in mind this Grand scene in Shanghai where the reflections and transparency allow not one but 3 characters to look, observe, judge and plan to kill the other : Bond observes Patrice who observes Severine's customer, and the the glass breaks, not only does death step in, but also the all observation revolve : Severine observing Bond. You will also find later in the article, that death is often present in the presence of windows in Mendes' films.

The other defining function is also used discretely in the film : transparency is at the centre of the new MI6 HQ, wheread it's suppose to be a closed secret place. You also have a lot of shots involving reflections that define the characters : Bond and M observing London through the window of the car or of the office, Bond looking at himself in the mirrors extracting clues and bullets from his body, Bond stepping in Severine's shower, Silva's jail, transparent yet imprisoning, and Silva's mysterious determination shot through the reflections of the police car.

05window6.jpg

To finish with the window issue, we will also see Bond and M, gazing through the windows of Skyfall lodge toward a danger to come, and confessing their own failure or their trust to each other.

The hero shot from behind

As we are coming to the end, the denouement of the story is always shot from behind the characters : it allows us to see the character facing its destiny, as well as supply a distanciation effect from the spectator who leaves the hero to its fate.

Jarhead concludes with Swofford looking back on the war and the desert, Away we go concludes on a the hero looking at the sea / at their future while being protected by their final home. Road to perdition features the same ending, but the boy faces the sea alone with no support. As for revolutionary road, the film shows us Di Caprio in front of his dull father's life.

06behind3.jpg
What about Bond ? Twice is this technique used in Skyfall : the first one is the shot of Bond and M looking at Scotland, contemplating the place where all starts and all will end, and the second time in London, Bond watching the city / the country that his "misplaced sense of country" bring him to protect over and over again.

To finish with, you all have in mind the lethal end of Silva, who is "shot from behind" one last time. Well, this is not the first time in Mendes's film. If you are not afraid of spoilers concerning Road to Perdition, Revolutionay Road and American Beauty, then click on the link below. (if you do, also remember what I wrote above about windows and reflections)
http://yvain.bon.free.fr/mob/wp-content/uploads/07behind5.jpg

The serenity of the Hero

Let's conclude this (too?) long article by dealing with the ending shots of the hero. If Mendes often reserves sad fates to his characters, he likes them and always give them a moment of serenity, stillness and happiness.

In these important shots, the Hero finally sees an element that makes him realize what he's been looking for, or which answers its interrogations about who he is : a photo, a glimpse through the past (Jarhead), the vision of or a house... In these final moment, the person is at rest also what he reflect upon is different every time. Kevin Spacey understand what his life is based on in American Beauty, Jake Gyllenhaal (Swofford in Jarhead) thinks he has finally achieved his role of sniper while Tom Hanks thinks he has fulfilled his as a family man, the couple of Away we go finally get to see a peaceful future while Leonardo Dicapio realizes his own nonentity.

08stillness3.jpg
What about James ? Twice it happens : the first time in Scotland when he reflects on his roots life-story ("you know the all story"), the second time when, facing London, he understands that the death of M has not been in vein, and that she "did take care of one thing right" : he's still at the service of its country.

What about you ? Is there some other Themes of the Mendes' films you have seen ? What is your favorite Mendes' film appart from Skyfall ?

00sam2.jpg






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Comments

  • SandySandy Somewhere in Europe
    Posts: 4,012
    Fascinating text @Ytterbium, thanks for sharing it with us. I would add Daniel Craig's character in Road to Perdition, Connor, to the Psycho characters, although it doesn't completely fit your analysis of Mendes' psychos.
  • Posts: 268
    Thanks for the comment Sandy !
    I would say that Craig's character in Road to Perdition is not so much a psycho than a secondary character who feel oppressed by his environment, and does not achieve to be recognised. A bit like the character of Carolyn Burnham in American Beauty, Dicaprio in Revolutionary road... or Severine in Skyfall who is completely imprisoned by her environment and who deals in deadly activities not to get bored and have control over her life.

    I have to say that I love DC in Road to Perdition. He's really creepy in this movie, he has some great scenes and he's the perfect antagonist to Tom Hanks which is quiet the opposite character.
  • Posts: 183
    I wrote the below very recently on a different thread talking about why the Skyfall pre title sequence is my personal favourite, and reading this great article I thought it was kind of relevant. And also reading the article made me think-maybe I do know something!

    "My personal favourite is Skyfall. It has me grinning ear to ear the whole way through it. I like the way action is combined with suspense, and the way Mendes builds the sequence is fantastic, gradually upping the tension. The contrasts are very visually stimulating too, such as:

    • the dark hallway at beginning and bright daylight outside,
    • the nice weather in Turkey and the rain in London,
    • the differing modes of travel (Bond on foot, in car, on motorcycle and on train),
    • the busy city and the countryside.

    I also love the way near the end of the sequence when Eve says "agent down" the sound of the rain grows, it encourages we the audience to ponder with M the significance and consequence of what has just happened, and yet the loud sound of the rain also seamlessly blends into the next sound of water flowing which in turn leads to the perfect moment for the title song to start-I just think things like this show superb film making.

    I also felt the whole sequence was Mendes shoving 2 fingers up to those who thought there wouldn't be much action or that he couldn't "do" action."
  • Posts: 2,081
    Fascinating stuff, Ytterbium, thanks for sharing. I'll need to read it again later. :)

    I agree, Connor Rooney is an interesting character, and Daniel does a great job portraying the bastard one still feels sorry for... an unloved, unhappy, insecure, doomed loser.
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    I only read a little to avoid spoilers for Mendes's other work that I hope to get into soon, but the analysis and accompanied pictures is fascinating. I definitely see some connections. Great work, @Ytterbium!
  • U also need to include the motif of how SM always shows a scene with wide angles and two characters in the middle.
  • CraigMooreOHMSSCraigMooreOHMSS Dublin, Ireland
    Posts: 3,615
    Fabulous work, I'll be keeping those things in mind next time I watch the film.
  • Samuel001Samuel001 Moderator
    edited January 2013 Posts: 13,215
    A very well written analysis. I'm interested to see how much of this appears again in Mendes' next film now.
  • Great work and highly interesting!
  • Posts: 11,119
    Fascinating topic :-). This is why I like 'Skyfall' so much. We keep discovering more details about this skillfully crafted James Bond film. Sam Mendes has been my favourite director together with Paul Thomas Andersson and Todd Field. Mendes' movies 'American Beauty' and 'Revolutionary Road' are not only excellent, but also daunting. So when I heard one of my favourite movie directors was going to direct one of my most beloved movie franchises..I was thrilled! And I still am as of today. I put 'Skyfall' on again :-P....
  • M_BaljeM_Balje Amsterdam, Netherlands
    edited January 2013 Posts: 3,172
    Windows and Reflections
    The Pyscho character
    The serenity of the Hero

    When Sam Mendes going to be the directer of Bond 23, i must think about Road to Perdition, because it comes moost close to some elements of QOS. Besides DC picture with the gun from Road to Perdition pop up on the forums at the time DC going to be Bond.

    [qoute]Windows and glass in Mendes' films have a narrative role : it enables the characters to observe and try to understand each other from the distance without being seen. [/qoute]

    Windows and Reflections is something new on that way to Bond what QOS give us, not in specialy Sam Mendes/Skyfall. But iam happy that somebody ele's notice it, whyle i think we should say Mirrors, Windows and Reflections. I also think it go much further back, Goldeneye and TMND already doing this before. Remember Janus. From Skyfall i must think about the 2 split angels in the maintitle, a remember from GE with the 2 faces. Those 2 faces from GE also be part of the inspiration for me my fanart with the 2 Bond's. Also i am a fan of the glas windows in Skyfall and live and death element in the maintitle.

    There be other things in Skyfall from GE like the beginning with the freeze window you can at under your Windows and Reflections. The Pyscho character i see more like take over from TMND because i see silvia as kind of Alec/Janus and Eliot Carver and the high light of the movie. The anoucment of Villian take longer (another highlight of the movie) is also another Goldeneye element.

    I only have seen Skyfall one time, whyle QOS 4 times and from that one view i can only say i think QOS have more hide Mirrors and Reflections.

    The serenity of the Hero, always great to see if done subtil and doing the movie/chacter judges. Spider-Man (Walk a way with some talk to us), QOS (Walk a way ), Skyfall, The Incredible Hulk tv series (Banner walks a way). Exeptions of very bad of the serenity of the Hero : Casino Royale and TDK. That the producer whant to make a point with that CR ending, made one of the trailers of QOS very clear with let Bond popup in the desert with a blue ''Skyfall'' background with same gun and M said het thing about time to go.
  • Posts: 268
    Thanks to you all for the warm comments!
    @Trigger : I agree with you completely on the pre-title sequence. I was kind of disappointed by the lack of gunbarrel, but the introduction when Bond had to leave Ronson to his death right from the start is quite sharp for a beginning. It is also amazing how smooth everything is going on, while when you think about it Bond does indeed use no less than 4 different vehicles. It was also daring to cut right in the action with the "bloody shot", and yes, the transition between M looking at the rain and Bond drawing is very well done. Mendes succeeds to be quiet discreet with the moving cameras, but really efficient. He also achieves a lot of indoor moving shots which are quite difficult to put together. I guess we also have to thank the 2nd unit for the action sequences. It was the same team as in QOS, but with good direction, it really enables to see how gifted they are.
    U also need to include the motif of how SM always shows a scene with wide angles and two characters in the middle.
    I guess it often goes as well with the scenes where the heroes are shot from behind. i don't think they always have to be 2 (see Revolutionary Road or Jarhead). But how the characters are framed into this wide shot is indeed very typical of Mendes' work

    @Gustav_Graves At first, I was a very doubtful about Mendes' involvement. I was really scared he would go even beyond what Forster did, by bringing Bond far from his roots. But the impressive things is that not only does Mendes succeeds to bring in his own way of filming (which is well done, because of the production constraints), but he also manages to completely assimilate the codes of the franchise and still have the character of 007 evolve. In CR and QOS, lots of comments said that the films were taking Bond too far away from its traditions. And here is Mendes who bring this 007 film which really blends into the franchise codes, and yet goes much beyond in the way it is shot (more beautiful and elaborated than the previous one) and in the way007 is featured (being kind of played out, dark and so on).
    From War film to Gangster films, and from drama to Bond films, this guy seems to manage everything ! (he's only done 6 films though, I'm curious to see what will be next).
    I also love the work of PT Anderson but I don't know Todd Field. Which of his films do you recommend ?

    @M_Balje of course, in 23 films, there is a lot of elements that we can find from one film to another (especially windows / glass and mirrors which are kind of usual background elements for any spy film). What I meant in the article is more that these elements were taking an important place in Mendes's previous films, but also in Skyfall : here, we have an entire scene shot just around glass. It's not just background stuff, it really is at the centre of the scene's action (even if Scaramanga Funhouse was also playing around with these elements. But TMWTGG was a circus).

    I agree with you with the similitude between Goldeneye and Skyfall. Both are full with symbolic elements such as duality, shadows etc. The major difference for me regarding Silva is that he's openly crazy whereas Carver or 006 offer a rational appearance before breaking out. Silva is dangerous but he doesn't act violently a single time, despite being very scary / menacing all the time.
  • Posts: 11,119
    Ytterbium wrote:
    @Gustav_Graves At first, I was a very doubtful about Mendes' involvement. I was really scared he would go even beyond what Forster did, by bringing Bond far from his roots. But the impressive things is that not only does Mendes succeeds to bring in his own way of filming (which is well done, because of the production constraints), but he also manages to completely assimilate the codes of the franchise and still have the character of 007 evolve. In CR and QOS, lots of comments said that the films were taking Bond too far away from its traditions. And here is Mendes who bring this 007 film which really blends into the franchise codes, and yet goes much beyond in the way it is shot (more beautiful and elaborated than the previous one) and in the way007 is featured (being kind of played out, dark and so on).
    From War film to Gangster films, and from drama to Bond films, this guy seems to manage everything ! (he's only done 6 films though, I'm curious to see what will be next).
    I also love the work of PT Anderson but I don't know Todd Field. Which of his films do you recommend?

    Todd Field is also a bit like Paul and Sam: He doesn't do many movies. And he only does a film project if he sees something in it, something he can adjust/improve under his directing.

    'In The Bedroom' and 'Little Children' are his most famous movies. The latter one was nominated for several Oscars. He is now working on the movie 'Creed Of Violence'.

    Also interesting, director Todd Solondz. Allthough his never movies aren't that impressive, 'Happiness' and 'Welcome To The Dollhouse' are still considered masterpieces in an era when 'American Beauty' and 'Magnolia' were the big Oscar hits.

  • Posts: 2,081
    Ytterbium wrote:
    Silva is dangerous but he doesn't act violently a single time, despite being very scary / menacing all the time.

    Doesn't act violently???

  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    Tuulia wrote:
    Ytterbium wrote:
    Silva is dangerous but he doesn't act violently a single time, despite being very scary / menacing all the time.

    Doesn't act violently???

    Yeah, that's a false statement. He kills the MI6 operatives in the explosion, tons of policemen at the inquiry,
    poor Severine,
    the men guarding his "cell", and who knows how many in the tube explosion and crash, and that's just off the top of my head. Pretty damn violent if you ask me.
  • M_BaljeM_Balje Amsterdam, Netherlands
    edited August 2013 Posts: 3,172
    Now Sam Mendes going to return and i have seen Skyfall for the second time and Jardhead in the mean time i can finaly say something/give my disagree about the Stinging in the rain catogorie and contrubution to earlier catogorie.

    Let i started with the last one:

    The mirror in toilet scene in Jardhead where he see
    another person/his girlfriend
    the mirror. See my earlier comment about mirrors in connection to Goldeneye, Casino Royale and QOS. Goldeneye already show Bond in toilet, but this one look like more the one in Casino Royale. I must think too about the short who whas made in 2011 about Daniel Craig in dress. In Skyfall of course there contuned with idea's created at start of QOS, with showing Bond twice in the mirror. The second Bond
    get a litle help from a friend.

    Finaly i can say something about ''Stinging in the rain'' catogorie:

    Another thing seen in Jardhead, be at the end of Skyfall. Whyle of course the disagree points if of course we got earlier Devils Breath from Twine, Under the Ice in DAD and Bond walk a way from the fire in the maintitle of QOS.

    On my wishlist before i like to see in more based QOS setting and Jardhead re-confirm , previous for Bond 23, but that don't happen.

    Both Skyfall and Jarhead have the problem there missing a bit of thriller feeling. QOS have this more. Skyfall have it more then Jarhead. If Sam Mendes created a more QOS setting, than there should happend more with that. Road To Perdition whas where i think about when i heard he going to direct Bond 23.


  • Posts: 12,188
    Tuulia wrote:
    Ytterbium wrote:
    Silva is dangerous but he doesn't act violently a single time, despite being very scary / menacing all the time.

    Doesn't act violently???

    Yeah, that's a false statement. He kills the MI6 operatives in the explosion, tons of policemen at the inquiry,
    poor Severine,
    the men guarding his "cell", and who knows how many in the tube explosion and crash, and that's just off the top of my head. Pretty damn violent if you ask me.

    I think what he meant is that Silva is not as direct in his violence, he uses technology to distantiate himself from his actions. Most of the time anyway. We never see him killing the guard for instance, which is quite creepy.
  • Posts: 11,119
    Ytterbium wrote:
    Hi everyone !
    I wanted to share this english version of an article I wrote on my french blog about James Bond (http://jamesbonderies.free.fr/index.php/01/directed-by-sam-mendes-english-version/).

    For those who are familiar with the films of Sam Mendes, maybe you've noticed some of the themes and techniques he uses in many of his films. Some of these typical elements of Mendes' work can be found in Skyfall too.
    Here is a review of some of them.

    Stinging in the rain
    In most movie, the weather stays sunny so that we can see the action. Rain and bad weather have mostly a narrative rôle to complicate the action of the heroes.
    In Mendes' films, the rain is mostly used to set the tone and put emphasize on the characters and their evolution.
    This weather technique is at the center of some of his films like "The Road to perdition" where all liquid elements are linked with rain. American Beauty and Jarhead (although with oil rain in this particular film) are also using the rain as a environment when the personality of the characters come to be revealed.
    This is an efficient technique : if you think about it, it's a way of restraining the environment in which the characters are evolving, isolating them and forcing them to get closer and share a kind of intimacy, in which some important things can be revealed. Jarhead also features the use of flames in the night that bring the characters in the shadows, isolating them as well as putting the emphasis on them.

    01pluie4.jpg
    Skyfall features such a use : first of all in the London Sequence. It rained already in QOS, but with no such significance. Here, the rainy weather isolate M from the rest of the secret services (remember when she turns after Bond is shot down, and when she writes the necrology). It is also when it is raining that M and 007 finally get reunited, and Bond confesses they "may have been in the game for too long".
    The end sequence is also pretty unusual for a Bond film. The first assault on the house is film in a grey twilight that makes the picture very dark, hence putting more emphasis on the silhouette of the opponents and on M/Bond/Kincade, than on the usual explosive landscape. As the house exposes, the all chase scene is shot only through the light of flames (as in Jarhead), featuring silhouette more than people running away and toward light in the dark. This process is quiet effective in shooting what I find to be one of the more serious and tensed ending fight of the franchise. And it is quiet typical of Mendes to shoot its final "reglement de compte" in a shadowy and rainy environment.

    The Pyscho character

    Each and everyone of Mendes' film features a type of crazy character. Although not the main antagonists, these figures often compel the hero to go forward in its evolution and on his path. There are different kind of crazy characters, but each of them is a person living on the border of society. He seems completely crazy, but as the film goes along and the violence of the other characters explodes, you realize that the pyscho is maybe the most rational, lucid and clear-sighted about what's going on.
    Such Psycho are the character of Ricky Fitts, filming his neighbours in American Beauty, the serial killer obsessed by death and photography played by Jude Law in the road to perdition, the great Michael Shannon as borderline American in Revolutionnay Road and Maggy Gyllenhaal as crazy overprotecting mother in Away we go. Jarhead is some kind of an exception since all the soldiers are mentally unstable. But even in this movie, the one who's at the border of the group (Troy who illegally enrolled in the army) is the character on the side who endures the pressure for the longer time and pushes the hero forward.

    02pycho4.jpg

    James Bond opponent are rarely sane of spirit. most of them are megalomaniac, ruthless and cruel. But if you think about it, most of them behave apparently normally, looking cold and dead calm. This is not the case of Silva who is obviously crazy, adopt an expressive attitude and claims his obsession for destruction and shadows. He's like most of the Mendes' psychos : living in the shadows but acting brightly : it gets quiet disturbing on the screen, and like in other Mendes' films, it forces the hero (M and Bond) to go forward if they want to get on top of the situation, instead of trying to contain the evil.

    Home

    The figure of the House and the quest for Home is THE central theme of Mendes' film. This is no coincidence if Bond finds himself going back to its origins in Skyfall, to confront evil there.
    In Mendes's films or the actions is centred in the house (American Beauty/Revolutionary Road) providing an environment where the characters are imprisoned and try to break free), or it is set as the goal of the path followed by the hero (Jarhead/Away We go/ Road to Perdition). Usually the film concludes in these house, but this building is usually not the place for an happy end. Most of characters meet there death here, and most of the time, the place of 'Home' is only a stage in the process of going beyond, inviting the hero to go forward toward their future. This is how it ends in Away we go or Jarhead (when the soldier realizes that the place he's searching is still in the desert).

    03home3.jpg
    Skyfall Lodge fits exactly in this scheme. M and Bond hope to be able to solve their problems there, but if the house provide them with shelters and weapon, it is also a place of danger where death has to be confronted to overcome the situation. Here, 007 even has to destroy it entirely to be able to survive, despite the hard stone walls.
    Sam Mendes seems to enjoy and highlight this return to Home of 007, by taking his time and long shots of 007 and M contemplating the moors where he must finally come back.

    Windows and Reflections

    These two elements are the main techniques around which Mendes works to shoots his movie. Some of his films (like Road to Perdition or Revolutionary Road) have their most important moments shoots through glass and reflections.
    Windows and glass in Mendes' films have a narrative role : it enables the characters to observe and try to understand each other from the distance without being seen. This is the central aspect of American Beauty for example (neighbours spying on each other), but also of Road to perdition (assassin's being reflected through windows). But these windows are also a way to define the character and what's going on inside his mind. It symbolizes the border that prevents the characters from escaping their home (Revolutionary Road), but also that keeps them away from their past (Jarhead) or family (Road to Perdition).
    Gazing by the window is a way to define the personality of the character, his expectations and aspiration as well as his current position (stuck in a situation he cannot escape).

    04window4.jpg
    These two functions (narrative and defining) are both present in Skyfall. You all have in mind this Grand scene in Shanghai where the reflections and transparency allow not one but 3 characters to look, observe, judge and plan to kill the other : Bond observes Patrice who observes Severine's customer, and the the glass breaks, not only does death step in, but also the all observation revolve : Severine observing Bond. You will also find later in the article, that death is often present in the presence of windows in Mendes' films.

    The other defining function is also used discretely in the film : transparency is at the centre of the new MI6 HQ, wheread it's suppose to be a closed secret place. You also have a lot of shots involving reflections that define the characters : Bond and M observing London through the window of the car or of the office, Bond looking at himself in the mirrors extracting clues and bullets from his body, Bond stepping in Severine's shower, Silva's jail, transparent yet imprisoning, and Silva's mysterious determination shot through the reflections of the police car.

    05window6.jpg

    To finish with the window issue, we will also see Bond and M, gazing through the windows of Skyfall lodge toward a danger to come, and confessing their own failure or their trust to each other.

    The hero shot from behind

    As we are coming to the end, the denouement of the story is always shot from behind the characters : it allows us to see the character facing its destiny, as well as supply a distanciation effect from the spectator who leaves the hero to its fate.

    Jarhead concludes with Swofford looking back on the war and the desert, Away we go concludes on a the hero looking at the sea / at their future while being protected by their final home. Road to perdition features the same ending, but the boy faces the sea alone with no support. As for revolutionary road, the film shows us Di Caprio in front of his dull father's life.

    06behind3.jpg
    What about Bond ? Twice is this technique used in Skyfall : the first one is the shot of Bond and M looking at Scotland, contemplating the place where all starts and all will end, and the second time in London, Bond watching the city / the country that his "misplaced sense of country" bring him to protect over and over again.

    To finish with, you all have in mind the lethal end of Silva, who is "shot from behind" one last time. Well, this is not the first time in Mendes's film. If you are not afraid of spoilers concerning Road to Perdition, Revolutionay Road and American Beauty, then click on the link below. (if you do, also remember what I wrote above about windows and reflections)
    http://yvain.bon.free.fr/mob/wp-content/uploads/07behind5.jpg

    The serenity of the Hero

    Let's conclude this (too?) long article by dealing with the ending shots of the hero. If Mendes often reserves sad fates to his characters, he likes them and always give them a moment of serenity, stillness and happiness.

    In these important shots, the Hero finally sees an element that makes him realize what he's been looking for, or which answers its interrogations about who he is : a photo, a glimpse through the past (Jarhead), the vision of or a house... In these final moment, the person is at rest also what he reflect upon is different every time. Kevin Spacey understand what his life is based on in American Beauty, Jake Gyllenhaal (Swofford in Jarhead) thinks he has finally achieved his role of sniper while Tom Hanks thinks he has fulfilled his as a family man, the couple of Away we go finally get to see a peaceful future while Leonardo Dicapio realizes his own nonentity.

    08stillness3.jpg
    What about James ? Twice it happens : the first time in Scotland when he reflects on his roots life-story ("you know the all story"), the second time when, facing London, he understands that the death of M has not been in vein, and that she "did take care of one thing right" : he's still at the service of its country.

    What about you ? Is there some other Themes of the Mendes' films you have seen ? What is your favorite Mendes' film appart from Skyfall ?

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    I truly love the way Sam Mendes incorporates themes and motives in his films. Hence why I created the Movie Poll: http://www.mi6community.com/index.php?p=/discussion/11523/movie-poll-2015-rank-the-films-directed-by-sam-mendes-top-6#latest

    I think it would be nice if we, Bond fans, dig a bit further in Mendes' marvelous films. Six films in total now, and a 7th, "SPECTRE", can be added to that....
  • Posts: 11,119
    Did anyone read/see this topic?
  • PropertyOfALadyPropertyOfALady Colders Federation CEO
    Posts: 3,346
    This brings up an idea: Have different directors (Terrence Young et al.) added reoccurring directorial pieces to their films?
  • Posts: 11,119
    I don't know about Terence Young actually. But I think he did have a cameo in every film he was in. If there was a shot when they had to zoom in on James Bond's hands, like when he holds the geology research paper in DN or the picture of Tanya in FRWL, it IS actually Terence's hand....:-).
  • edited August 2015 Posts: 11,119
    I was actually re-watching "Revolutionary Road" yesterday. And I came across some striking similarities.

    This is the psychologically troubled character April Wheeler, for which Kate Winslet won a Golden Globe. Back then Sam Mendes was still married with her:

    revolutionaryroad008.jpg
    kate+winslet+revolutionary+road.jpg
    revolutionary_road_kate_winslet_2.jpg

    And now have a look at Lea Seydoux's character Madeleine Swann. Striking similarities no?:

    SITE_LEA.jpg
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    tumblr_nrtx9weDWl1s9f8i8o1_r1_500.jpg

    Could Madeleine Swann's fate we as gruesome as April Wheeler's?
  • Posts: 10,853
    Similarities? They're blonde and wear a dress.
  • Posts: 11,119
    Madeleine Swann's fashion choices are very much reminiscent of the 1950's if I may say so. Greta Garbo-esque....even some Grace Kelly influences. And "Revolutionary Road" is entirely set in the 1950's.
  • Posts: 10,853
    Is it not more likely that Mendes and the costume designers are drawing on the classic style of that era rather than referencing one of Mendes's films? The 40s through to the early 60s were iconic for Hollywood fashion etc.

    I don't see how having a blonde woman in a classic dress means there are significant parallels with Revolutionary Road.
  • Posts: 11,119
    Okay, fair enough ;-).
  • Posts: 11,119
    I was listening Ted Kennedy's speech from the 1980 Democratic Convention the other day. And please, have a look at it, listen what Ted Kennedy is saying after 34min 05sec ;-). Now we know where Sam Mendes drew his inspiration from with the Tennyson speech uttered by Judi Dench in 'Skyfall' :-):

  • PropertyOfALadyPropertyOfALady Colders Federation CEO
    Posts: 3,346
    Dame Judi read it better ;). We had a poetry unit in my senior year of high school (2014), and we had to read a poem. I was allowed to use "Ulysses", as well as show the clip from SF in class. Judi also read it better than me!
  • 0BradyM0Bondfanatic70BradyM0Bondfanatic7 It was this or the priesthood.
    Posts: 28,232
    Tennyson is one of the greatest poets of all time, and Ulysses easily one of the best crafted works in an age of pretension, and because of its relatable, human and wide spanning dramatic themes of age, endurance, time and change, it's been quoted and used in various places and mediums. I'd say one of those other places was where Mendes and Logan got inspiration, and not from old Teddy, who absolutely botches the poem in that speech. I was wincing a bit as he went.
  • MrcogginsMrcoggins Following in the footsteps of Quentin Quigley.
    Posts: 3,133
    I have often wondered weather or not Sam Mendes watched Frasier ?
    ;)
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