Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mr. Arkadin - the boat scene

In my haste to get the first post up on my new blog, I neglected to mention the astonishing scene that really solidified my obsession with this movie. In a movie filled with arresting images, the boat scene is the one that’s always haunted me.

There are spoilers in this post, so if you haven’t seen Mr. Arkadin/Confidential Report and intend to, you might not want to read further.

The scene involved Mily (Patricia Medina) on Arkadin’s boat, drunkenly taunting him with the information she has learned about his past. In a way this is exposition, as it includes more background on Arkadin than any other scene in the movie, but it’s much more than that. The camera is in constant motion, and looking closely so is the set. The room sways dramatically in all directions, and Mily is thrown around the room, bracing herself against the wall. Meanwhile Arkadin himself is solidly anchored, dominating the scene.

Every time I watch this scene I find it disorienting and disturbing. There is an air of menace about it that goes beyond Mily’s dawning realisation that Arkadin is not going to allow her to walk away with the information she has gathered about him. Arkadin’s bizarre make-up really makes him look like an avatar of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea and of earthquakes, which makes sense given the rocking of the room, the ocean-bound location of the scene, and the fact that after the scene is concluded Arkadin is going to drown Mily (Welles’s version of the movie was supposed to open with her naked body washed up on the beach, a shot that is missing from most versions and placed directly after this scene in others).

In addition, the scene is shot in a sexually charged manner, highlighting Mily’s voluptuous figure and Arkadin’s domination of her. In context, she has managed to get a job on his boat as an “entertainer” as a way of getting more information about him; there is no doubt that her entertaining is not limited to singing and dancing. What exactly happens between the end of this scene and the discovery of Mily’s body? It’s one of many mysteries implicit in Mr. Arkadin.

Unfortunately, this scene doesn't seem to be on Youtube or I would link to it.

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