Analyse a Scene – Palm Springs

I have recently started a part-time course at Edinburgh College, ‘Filmmaking for Screen’ and will be documenting my journey on this blog, feel free to join me on this adventure!

This week we were asked to analyse a scene from a movie, so I picked one of my favourite movies from the past year ‘Palm Springs’. Specifically, the scene after Sarah realises she is in a time loop, and her first reaction to this (roughly 23 minutes in).

For me this movie is representative of the world at the moment, everyone is stuck in an endless loop and are unsure of when it is going to end.

This analysis is a total SPOILER ALERT for the movie, so don’t read anything after the trailer if you haven’t seen it, but please enjoy the trailer below otherwise.

This scene begins with an establishing shot, clearly portraying that the car and its inhabitants as the main focus. The shot is set up to show that they are speeding through the desert, running away from the issue at hand (time loop), but it does not show what is ahead of them (the future). This shot is equally balanced, possibly portraying the fact that both characters are on this odd journey together.

The scene then turns to a two-shot of the characters, Nyles and Sarah, who are about to have a conversation about the movies premise – the fact that they are stuck in a time loop, and Nyles opinion of it.

Nyles is portrayed as though he is in a constant state of ‘hangover’, a bit rough around the edges wearing a Hawaiian shirt, holding a beer in the passenger seat. This relaxed state of being and the fact that he is in the passenger seat shows that he is clearly just along for the ride.

Sarah, on the other hand, is in an internal argument with herself. This can be seen from the need to control the situation by being the driver and making the big decisions (e.g crashing the car), however this clashes with her appearance, as she is still in her pyjamas and swigging a beer, showing that although she wants full control of her life she keeps making the wrong choices (which we see later on in the movie).

In regards to composition, both actors are in shadow even though it is incredibly light outside (they are in the desert after all), depicting the fact that they are both in a very dark place in their lives, surrounded by the beige vastness of the desert, neither knows what else is out there for them.

They are both wearing similar colours, specifically red and blue. Red stands out amongst other colours and has negative connotations – especially in this movie. In other scenes, red is the colour of the cave that they enter to become trapped in the time loop, it relates to the blood that pours out of Sarah’s sisters mouth when she falls and loses her teeth and in this scene it’s the colour of Nyles shirt, showing that he, and his thought process, are in a negative place.

The shirt he is wearing also has splashes of blue, and Sarah is wearing the same shade of blue. Blue, throughout this movie, depicts ‘the end’ (of the loop), this can be seen in other scenes such as the numerous swimming pools, the car and the truck that is just about to enter this scene. Sarah wearing blue is a sign that she could be the beginning of the end of the loop.

During this conversational scene, the main focus switches between each character and a two shot throughout.

Nyles character is seen as a medium close up, slightly blocked by the rear-view mirror. The mirror, and this shot, conveys that the only person stopping him from getting out of the time loop is himself.

Sarah’s shot on the other hand, is still a medium close-up, however she takes up most of the screen and is only slightly obstructed by Nyles. Portraying that she is in control and is the authority figure at this point, as she is currently the one making the decisions during this life or death situation, Nyles being a part of this shot shows that she is listening to him but he is only a small voice, due to his small obstruction of the camera, in the current moment.

The tone of the scene switches when Sarah has come to the conclusion that the only thing that will help is if they end their lives. This can be seen as the shot switches to focussing solely on Sarah and her taking control of the car, putting Nyles out of the scene as she has stopped listening to what he is saying. The beer is more prominent in this shot, conveying that she could be about to make the wrong decision.

There is a quick switch to Sarah’s foot on the accelerator, note here that her boot is bright red, linking back to the colour red having negative connotations e.g she is aiming to crash the car with them in it.

Then another quick switch back to the car as the focal point, with the desert blurring showing how fast they are going and at this point we can see that there is something coming towards them in the distance.

During this shot the narrative turns to panic with the sudden change of car speed, the addition of suspenseful music that is building up with a deep beat, overall making it clear to the audience that something is about to happen.

When the scene switches again it goes to Sarah, she is central to the camera, facing the steering wheel with the emptiness of the desert speeding by her. This shows her determination of getting out of their current never ending situation.

When it switches to Nyles, his head is on the dashboard as he would like to be killed immediately on impact, linking to the fact that he always picks the easiest option and has essentially given up. You can also clearly see the side mirror and what is behind them, alluding to the fact that you know what has happened to his past but it is unclear what will happen in the future.

At this point the camera changes are faster, matching the suspenseful intense music, adding to the build up of the scene.

A blue truck comes into focus, linking to the colour blue meaning ‘the end’. There is no build up to the truck, it just suddenly appears in a close up shot, making it very clear that impact is near, in addition, the music is ramped up and you can also hear the blast of the trucks horn adding to the state of emergency in the scene.

The shots become fast to add to the panic and we get a close-up of Sarah swigging the red (negative) beer, a clear point that she is about to make a mistake.

We then very swiftly get this fantastic shot of the two vehicles hurtling towards each other, the trucks horn is loud and alarming and it is obvious what is about to happen.

The beige desert portraying the mundane everyday life and the two vehicles visualising the extreme circumstance in this vast space that the two main characters have found themselves in. Both vehicles being blue, linking back to the end.

The scene quickly flashes between shots, but here at the end of this particular scene the crash is imminent, Nyles is no longer a main character as the shots solely focus on Sarah as this is something she has to go through herself. Her eyes are closed (to wake up at the beginning of the loop you fall asleep or die), and the next scene are the two characters waking up at the beginning of the loop, once again.

At the very end of this scene, every shot is so fast it happens within a ‘blink of the eye’.

This scene has many different shots for a short conversation, it has an establishing shot, it has a two person shot, conversation shots, and up close shots. Each one portraying what the characters are thinking and feeling, but also setting the scene.

This scene illustrates the characters well and how they react to their situation in a short period of time. Showing that Sarah wont accept the life she has been given and she’ll work out a way, even if it dangers her life, to get out of it and it portrays Nyles perfectly, in that he has given up on himself and accepted the life he has been given. Both prominent themes throughout the movie.

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