Back in college (way back, oh, in the late 80s), I took a class where we spent about a month examining 'Network'. It is such an amazingly complex film. That monologue scene has some amazing lighting and staging, which all reinforces the characters and their relationships to each other.That reminded me of something I thought about when the movie was over, but quickly forgot to remember (with apologies to Yogi Berra.)
Years ago, when I thought that maybe I wanted to be a filmmaker (I chose writer because I can do essentially the same creative thing with 90% less stupid industry bullshit) I made a point to read lots of books by successful industry people whom I respected. In this batch of books, I read William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell? (which inspired me to pursue writing more seriously, just not ever for film or television) and Sydney Lumet's Making Movies.
They're all great books, but Lumet's is truly outstanding, whether you want to make films of your own, or you just love movies. He made some of the greatest films of the 1970s (far and away my favorite decade for films) and in his book, he talks in great detail how he made his movies come together, and why he made some of the choices he made. Often, when he revealed a choice -- like slowly raising the camera toward the ceiling in Twelve Angry Men to create a sense of the walls closing in on the jurors -- I realized that I'd seen it without being aware of it (like a certain character who shows up all over the place in Watchmen.)
In Network, the film starts out extremely dark and grainy, then becomes clearer and more brightly-lit through the middle, and eventually ends in the same darkness as it began. I noticed this when the film was over, and wondered what exactly he was trying to convey when he did that. Is he making a statement about Howard Beale, or is he making a broader statement about the network itself? Does the darkness and light reflect the ratings? I also noticed that we frequently can't see all of a person's face when they speak . . . is that meant to reflect how secretive and guarded people are in the television news business?
Maybe it's all stupid bullshit that I'm reading too much into, but I've already spent too much time writing this to give it the old "what the fuck" and delete it.
Anyone care to comment? Update: James, from Ignore-your.tv has a comprehensive and totally awesome answer in comments. Come see, RSS readers!
(It really is a great movie that everyone really should see, if I haven't run that point deep enough into the ground to personally hand it to the Morlocks.)