THE INSIDER  (1999)
Scene Analysis
1:44:12
David and Goliath
[1]    Throughout The Insider, it is fairly obvious that director Michael Mann has inflected his own personal bias on the portrayal of the film's characters.  It is obvious that we are supposed to view Lowell Bergman and Jeffrey Wigand as the heroes and turn down our noses at the rest of the CBS clan, namely Don Hewitt, Mike Wallace, and Eric Kluster.  Nowhere is Mann's influence felt more strongly than in the scene entitled "Kluster Pulls Rank" (1:44:12).  It is in this scene that Mann flawlessly accomplishes his task through careful use of blocking, costumes, camera angles, and location.

[2]     The blocking of the scene was the first thing to catch my eye.  (For those not familiar with the term, "blocking" refers to the physical placement of the actors' bodies during a scene.)  Right off the bat, Mann has divided the individuals in the CBS office into two "teams."  Representing the aforementioned heroes is the lone Bergman standing by the window.  His foes are lumped together on the other side of the office: Hewitt, Wallace, and Kluster.  It is three against one and already the cards have been stacked against Bergman.  The audience interprets this as unfair, and sympathy for Bergman results.  But Mann doesn't stop there; he is just getting started.

[3]      Another important aspect of the blocking in this scene is the specific positioning of the characters.  Wallace and Hewitt are seated comfortably in chairs while Kluster stands.  That Kluster stands is representative of his power over both Hewitt and Wallace.  It is clear that Kluster is in charge; he makes the decision in this scene to shoot an alternate version of the Wigand interview.  By remaining standing he asserts his power and most likely does not expect any of his underlings to oppose him.  But Bergman also remains standing, symbolic of the fact that he is the only one willing to stand up to Kluster's authority.  The battle has begun and Bergman has made his point clear: he will not just sit back and let the corporate heads of CBS censor one of his pieces.  The separation between the good guys and the bad guys that Mann has established merely lays the groundwork for the rest of his techniques, such as costumes.

[4]     Note the difference in the outfits of the four men.  Again, we have a distinct division between the two "teams" Mann has created.  Wallace is impeccably dressed in a suit, as are his colleagues Hewitt and Kluster.  All three have short, neatly trimmed hair and well-groomed faces.  Bergman, on the other hand, appears frumpy, despite the fact that he too is wearing a business suit.  What distinguishes him from the others is an overall disheveled appearance of his hair and face.  His hair is longer and shaggier than the norm in the corporate world; basically, he looks scruffy.  Large circles under his eyes give his face a haggard, overworked appearance...he is the picture-perfect image of a tireless crusader fighting for the good of all men.  This contrasts with Wallace, whose skin, albeit wrinkled, still manages to effortlessly look creamy; most likely he is wearing makeup.  Things such as facial appearance and hair are difficult to label as deliberate techniques by the director, but, still, Mann picked these actors for a reason.  You could say that Al Pacino always looks scruffy, but maybe that's why Mann chose him for the character of Lowell Bergman.

[5]     Easier to detect than the subtle differences in the physical appearance of the characters is how Mann deftly maneuvers the focus of the camera in a such a way that it enhances the portrait of Bergman as David fiercely battling the Goliath-like CBS Corporation.  One shot pans a row of trophies on a ledge, making sure the audience realizes the prestige that goes along with the 60 Minutes name.  Close-ups on Bergman emphasize his emotions as they go from disbelief at Kluster's rationalization for editing the Wigand piece to rage that his own opinion no longer seems to matter.  Further contributing to this scene's atmosphere is the almost choppy feel to the camera's focus.  The transitions from shot to shot are not seamless; rather they seem to reflect the real-time back and forth nature of a heated argument behind closed doors.  Mann really makes you feel as if you are right there in the room with them, your head swiveling from Bergman to Kluster and back to Bergman to see who will say what next.

[6]     If you adhere to the belief that nothing is accidental when it comes to filmmaking, I believe that the setting of this scene is an ingenious symbolic move by Mann.  As Bergman looks out the window we see that the meeting takes place in an office perched high above the crowded streets of Manhattan.  The scene shifts to Bergman's view of the tiny people and tiny cars below him.  He stares down at them, acknowledging them...acknowledging both their existence and their importance in the world.  Mann is reminding us that these are the people for whom Bergman is fighting.  These are the millions of individuals who deserve to know the truth about Big Tobacco.  It is with the welfare of these tiny specks on the street below weighing on his mind that Bergman turns around to face his colleagues.  Not surprisingly, none of the other men in the office even take a glance out the window.  They are unconcerned with the outside world.  As far as Kluster, Hewitt, and Wallace are concerned, what goes on inside the walls of the CBS corporation is the world.  Nothing and no one else matters.

[7]     The job of a director is to create a story through visual and auditory effects; thus, every tiny decision about costumes, lighting, or scenery has the potential to influence the "feel" of a film as well as the opinion of an audience member.  In this scene Mann has shaped history with far more than just the words in the script.  He has utilized specific techniques to bring this story to life and to imprint on the audience the heroism of a man named Lowell Bergman.

 

Copyright (c) 2003 by Lindsay Elizabeth Totams, Undergraduate Student at Lehigh University.

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