Douglas Sirk: The Director As Auteur

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Douglas Sirk is a popular auteur director. He gained auteur status through his use of social discussion and distinctive film form. He is best known for his films in the melodrama genre. According to Kolker (1999, p107) “melodrama is central cinematic that creates empathy and identification”. Douglas Sirk focused on getting the audience to feel the emotional turmoil of the characters lives. The portrayal of characters that are caught up in their feelings of anxiety and denial was a recurrent theme. According to Kolker (1999, p119) Sirk was known for enhancing or exaggerating these aspects of melodrama through “already exaggerated characters and mise-en-scene”. Sirk uses mise-en-scene to echo, represent or exaggerate a characters life, feelings, thoughts or personality. His stylistic features aid us in making meaning or responding to the films and the characters. Like other auteur directors Douglas Sirk imprints his own personality into his films; continuing trends exist within his films. The storylines and plots are generally focussed on class and race. Sirk also uses some of the same cast in his films, most notably Rock Hudson. Another similarity is that the films are often set in the winter, frequently around Christmas. The scenery and surroundings that are used have a familiar feel; the houses are usually located in suburbia, with the inhabitants being middle to upper class Americans in the 1950s. A key scene in “Written in the Wind” displays typical Sirkian style. Mitch, Kyle and Lucy have flown to Miami. “Sirk manipulated not only camerawork and lighting…but virtually every aspect of the filmmaking art: décor, costumes, sets…” (Schatz, 1981, p.241) The first shot sees the protagonists walking through the hotel lobby which is a garish red. This scene contains many vivid colours. The use of red can be seen as a sign of danger, warning of the strife the
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