Framing Intolerable Ideas in Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven

Todd Haynes film Far From Heaven uses colorful and melodramatic Cinematography (by Edward Lachman) to explore issues of race, class and sexuality in urban Connecticut during the 1950’s. What is most interesting about this Cinematography is the use of formal elements to create various contextual frames in order to highlight complex issues. For example, the scene in which Cathy Whitaker attends a gallery showing in the company of Raymond Deagan is in itself particularly scandalous as Raymond is black and not Cathy’s husband. While this specific relational context becomes more explicit to the audience we are simultaneously viewing pieces of art influenced by modernism, therefore witnessing a layering of contextual frames, the relationship of Cathy and Raymond as well as the framed pieces of modern art in the gallery that clearly places the story within a particular social and political world. Another example of Haynes use of a contextual frame happens during the final scene, text appears against a black background simply stating “For Bompi” creating a context for the entire film as the viewer gains insight into the filmmaker’s source of inspiration. For the audience, contextualizing the frame is crucial in order to understand the world in which the cinematic story lives and therefore be able to sympathize with its characters.
Natalie Schneck