NOTE: I have not actually ever seen ‘500 Days of Summer’ in its entirety, and am only referring to the clip below.
“He believed that this time, his expectations would align with reality…”
These are the last words we hear from the narrator before the screen splits into two sections: as you would expect – Expectations vs Reality.
Whilst many of the things spoken about in class focused on windows and frames and Elsaesser (to be honest, not the biggest fan – alas), we didn’t touch on any aspect of identification, or how this split-screen technique affects the spectators’ relationship with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character.
One certain window, or frame, that this split-screen technique privileges the audience with is that of the character’s mindset going into this social gathering. While it is uncertain when exactly JGL’s character had this “Expectations” dream (the morning of, the day before, or even seconds before entering Zooey Deschanel’s apartment), this is what he was expecting to happen. Although, at times, unrealistic (Deschanel’s attention only fixed on him; a sexual encounter in the middle of a party with the host; etc), witnessing JGL’s character’s expectations side by side with what actually happened allows the spectator to emotionally connect with his character. And, different from any of his past delusions of grandeur, this time, according to the narrator, he believed these two split-screens would merge into one paradisaical outcome. However, as this one scene exhibits, JGL’s thoughts don’t always harmonically concur with his real life.
Though there are hints of his frustrations along the right side of the screen (‘Reality’) that display JGL’s developing anger (a sarcastic quip about architecture and greeting cards; angrily squeezing a lime into his drink; a vexing stare into the distance all by his lonesome), the juxtaposition with the expectations screen allows the viewer to fully understand his emotional mindset. Rather than prescribe his reactions to a fickle psyche, we easily understand his quick, internally enraged exit (unbeknownst to the rest of the partygoers) as legitimate and justifiable. However, the audience only reaches this point by having the window into the mind of the character.
The moment when the two screens become one, when the door closes on JGL’s “Expectations” (and with that, any chance of a physical relationship), when he spots Deschanel’s character’s lustrous new ring, is when even the character’s own fantasies must come to an sudden halt. At the same time, though the spectator loses this privileged access to the inner sanctum of his mind/thoughts, we can assume that the only things going on up there are explosions and expletives and smashing things.
I suppose at some point in the future I should watch the entire film, and I’m sure that doing so will better ‘frame’ (haha) this particular scene. Until then, don’t be so sour, JGL.
Extra bonus! Remember when Zooey Deschanel was the innocent new hipster up-and-coming celebrity in the indie music/film scene? Oh, weren’t those the days… Here’s a cute little song from those now ancient times.