Sunset Boulevard is a 1950 film noir directed by Billy Wilder and written by Wilder and Charles Higham. It was produced as an independent production and released by Paramount Pictures on September 16, 1950. The film stars Gloria Swanson as the fading silent-era actress Norma Desmond, who has fallen victim to delusion and is now obsessed with reclaiming her former glory. Erich von Stroheim plays her butler, coachman, and keeper, while also serving as her principal connection to the outside world, enabling him to exert control over her. This article explores the themes of duality and deception that run through "Sunset Boulevard".
A motif of duality runs throughout the film and is prevalent in several areas. As the title suggests, it's a story of two worlds; the past and the present. The characters of Betty and Joe, and their story, represent the past. They are a young couple dreaming of a bright future. There are two sides to Norma's character: the glamorous, famous actress and the lonely, delusional old woman. Similarly, there are two sides to Joe. He's a man with a checkered past, but he also has a good side. He genuinely loves Betty and tries to help her out. One of the most important examples of duality is the contrast between Joe and the silent film actors, who represent old Hollywood. Norma bought her old costumes from the studio and recreated scenes from her silent films. These scenes are contrasted with those featuring Joe, Betty, and Cory, who represent the new Hollywood.
The idea of deception occurs many times throughout the film. The movie opens with a five-minute-long take of someone stealing the dead body of a young woman. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the film, which explores the nature of deception, both on a societal level and on an individual level. Deception is also explored on a broader level through the characters of Betty and Joe. They are a young couple in love, but they are also frustrated by their lack of opportunities. Betty has dreams of becoming a great actress, but she's forced to settle for commercials because she can't get any other auditions.
Norma Desmond's delusions
Norma is a fascinating character who is driven by her delusions. As a faded silent-movie actress, she has become trapped in the past, and the film explores how this affects her life. For example, when Joe comes to her house to collect the costumes, Norma is convinced that he's a reporter who is writing a story about her. This delusion leads to her saying outlandish things like, "You may as well take my picture now because I'm sure to be a smash." Norma is also very manipulative and condescending, which is shown through her interactions with people, such as when she tells Joe and Betty that she's "the one that made the swine flu." This is an interesting way to show the difference between the past and the present. When Norma was famous, everyone wanted to talk to her, but now people are tired of her and only want her to leave them alone.
The roadhouse scene
The roadhouse scene is a great example of the film's dualities. It's a moment of pure joy and celebration, but it's also a scene of deception and evil. In the scene, Betty and Joe are celebrating the end of their filming, and they're joined by some of the extras. During the party, however, a man comes up to Betty and starts to sexually harass her. This leads to a violent confrontation in which Joe beats up the man, and the other guests join in, beating up the other men who tried to assault Betty. This is a great example of the difference between past and present, as well as good and evil. In the past, Norma would have been the only person to stand up to the men, but in the present, she is too much of a recluse to do anything. Instead, it's left to Joe and Betty to save the day.
Reversal and rebirth
The climax of the film features a reversal of the opening, with a dead body lying in a pool of blood. Instead of a young woman, it's an old man, and instead of being murdered, he kills himself. This reversal is fitting since it signifies the end of the old Hollywood and the start of a new one. It also shows that the new Hollywood is a different world from the one that existed before. The ending of the film also suggests a rebirth. It shows the death of the old Hollywood, but it also shows the beginning of a new Hollywood. Indeed, the film was released at a time when the studios were starting to lose their power and independent filmmakers were gaining more control. Sunset Boulevard is a good example of this shift.
Sunset Boulevard is a classic example of film noir, with its themes of dark themes and tragic endings. The film is also a great example of how film can explore ideas of duality and deception, particularly through its use of its two main characters.