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Hailey Thomas

April 6, 2001

Feeder 3.2

Thelma and Louise

In the final scene from Thelma and Louise the cinematographic effects are astounding. Panning, reaction shot, and dissolve are all used in the last section of the movie clip extensively. These three cinematographic terms are perfect for this clip because of the intensity they add to the scene. Through the use of panning, reaction shot, and dissolve the actresses portray two extreme emotions of desperation and the tranquility of freedom.

Desperation is seen in many different instances throughout the clip. Thelma and Louise (Susan Sarandon and Gena Davis) are finally pushed to their limit in this final scene. Thelma (Gena Davis) comes to the realization that the two women can no longer run away. As she proposes her conclusion to their ventures, the camera switches from Thelma to Louise as each speak. You never see the opposite actress as one is speaking. You cannot see their reactions until they speak themselves. This is referred to as a reaction shot (Filmland). The scene is view from over the shoulder of the actress opposite the speaker. As Thelma is proposing that the two take a plunge to their ultimate freedom, the movie watcher views this through Louise’s eyes. Those watching see Thelma’s desperation and determination in her eyes are she tells Louise of their single alternative to being caught. As soon as Louise speaks the camera quickly changes from the view of Louise to the view through Thelma’s eyes. Now, those viewing can see Louise’s reaction and surprise. This effect if very powerful and effective during this scene because you feel as you are in the movie with them (Emerson 2). It pulls the viewer into the movie.

Desperation is also expressed when the two first see the helicopter coming towards them out of the Grand Canyon. The shot used to film this approach is panning. The camera follows the helicopter at a side view all the way up the canyon. This adds almost a menacing feeling to the clip (Emerson 1). When Thelma and Louise see the helicopter a look of sheer terror fills their faces. They seem lost, frightened, and delusional all at one time. The police cars that fill the vast space behind them make the two realize that their time has run out. The view of all the officers approaching in their patrol cars is also a panning technique (Emerson 1). By using panning here, the viewer gets a better idea of how many men there actually are and that Thelma and Louise are, in fact, surrounded.

Thelma and Louise long for their freedom in more ways than one. When they first reach the edge of the Grand Canyon and slam on the breaks they look out over the hood of the car at the vast emptiness before them. The cannon is beautiful and treacherously deep. The bright blue sky only adds to this perfection. A panning shot views the top of the canyon but mostly the beautiful blue sky with its perfectly pristine clouds. The sky represents that which they long for…it represents all that they want and need. It represents their freedom.

As the two stars finally agree on the ultimate freedom, the 1966 Thunderbird speeds towards the edge of the Grand Canyon with increasing speed and unending determination. Dust and dirt is thrown into the air as the shot is filmed from behind the car in a fixed position. As the car leaves the edge of the cliff the shot quickly jumps to a large view of the side of the car from far off. This panning of the camera allows us to see all the action of the actual flying of the car off the cliff. This panning shot allows us to see the vast expansion and inevitable impending death of the two friends (Emerson 3). The camera moves from the point where the car leaps off the cliff, in a horizontal motion on a fixed axis, to the point where the car begins to drop down. At this point the scene is frozen and slowly it dissolves into a pearly white screen and then back into a montage of the girls adventures throughout the movie. Dissolve is the transition between two shots when the first image gradually disappears and the second image gradually appears (Filmland). This effect is usually done using a black screen to represent an ending of some sort. In Thelma and Louise the dissolve is white. The color white also represents freedom and happiness. Thelma and Louise have reached their freedom.

Cinematography, if used properly, adds immensely to the action and effects of a film. Thelma and Louise greatly benefited from panning shots, reactions shots, and dissolve. To the untrained eye these effects go completely unnoticed and unappreciated but to those who do appreciate them know that because of cinematography Thelma and Louise is a masterpiece.



Emerson, Jim. “Thelma and Louise.” New York Times 12 December 1990. 4 April 2001


Filmland Cinematography Dictionary. “Film, Audio, and Video Terminology.” 4 April

2001 .

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