Conceptual Design: The Story of an Hour

The Story of an Hour

The conceptual design of The Story of an Hour,

should strive to be faithful to the Kate Chopin’s work.  This includes preserving the narrative but reaching the limits while interpreting the story.  The Story of an Hour (2007), the studio’s first publicly screened film, had to faithful to the short story while pushing the interpretive boundaries.  It was here I appreciated the differences between creating a story and directing one.  I chose Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour because it was a short and simple open to wide interpretation.  A broken woman learns of her husband’s death shows two different reactions.  One with her family downstairs and another upstairs alone.    There is a mysterious chair and sitting in it grants fantastic visions.

A ghostly hand opens doors. The chair is ready for your viewing pleasure.

Surrealism and the supernatural
Shooting on Super-8mm naturally gives an uneasy, almost dream-like presentation.  As looking through a dream, many universal rules are bent.  Doors and curtains open themselves.  Televisions change programming without notice.  There are also awkward poses. Brently’s extended reach for his bag (homage to the story) and very odd stares from Josephine and Richards who stoically keep their distance from Louise.  Are they looking into the dream or are they part of it?

One room, four point of views including the audience’s.

Paying homage to an unhappy marriage and Louise’s poor health
I wanted to depict the uneasy and unsympathetic relationship between Louise and Brently Mallard.  The film opens up to a pan-right of a mantle of pictures depicting them in a less than mutually loving poses. With only a few lines, we see Brently too busy for his wife.  Louise, is a broken woman who finds solace only in her morning drink.  (Whiskey or is it apple juice?).  There is a short flash-back seeing her more healthy moments before her first heart problem.  She is almost an invalid who is passing time no differently than the eery kit cat clock that seems to know something.

With his back turned to his wife, Brently has his own doorway to the world.

Television and the (controversial) woman in the Venetian mask
The television offered two opportunities.  The first was a vehicle informing Louise of the train wreck.  The second was using it as a literal window into not another world but inside Louise’s head!  The programming is nonsensical.  The channel begins serene and with no kinetic energy before switching programming with a woman in Venetian mask eating a sandwich! This was a premeditated risk and an attempt to disorient. The sound warns of danger as the woman taunts Louise.  It is purposely eclectic and disjointed.  This is not what anyone expects and totally out of left field.  If the audience subconsciously embraces this as fabric of the universe, what follows comes easier.

Broadcasting from the mind of madness.

Cosmic chair
Louise’s bedroom prepares for her arrival before she finds refuge there.  The door swings open, illuminating the chair inside waiting for her.  After she climbs upstairs and takes her seat, a ghostly hand closes (and locks) the door beginning her journey into heaven.  Thoughts swirl in Louise’s head before the curtains pull open and lights of heaven graces her.  Sadness turns into euphoria.  A fragile woman in black becomes a dancing woman in white tossing petals into the air.   But it is all narrative as Josephine breaks through the door and we see Louise’s body still frail.

Body and soul free!

Fall of Louise
The final act is a short one.  After Louise relishes her new found liberty, Richards struggles with Brently downstairs who have returned much alive and well.  Brently pushes through offering flowers.  As in the story, Louise’s heart stops and she drops dead.  In the spirit of the film, she takes a supernatural waterfall-type slide downstairs.  Though we do not see, her corpse is surrounded by the others.  There is confusion with Brently oblivious to the train wreck.  His gift for forgiveness is left untouched.  The Kit-Kat-Clock smiles.  Time continues without Louise.

Time of death, 6:56 AM.

Music and Yo-Yo Ma
For solemn music I picked out the cello.  Who better cellist than Yo-Yo Ma?  Since student films (supposedly) are at liberty to use copyrighted works, I picked out the scores from the soundtrack to Seven Years in Tibet.  It wonderfully depicted the mood of despair, hopelessness, and wonder; from Louise’s ascent to her bedroom to the cosmetic curtains opening the view to heaven.

Final thoughts and direction
The Story of an Hour is an example where the director can bend and manipulate an established story yet remain  faithful to original elements.  In my interpretation of the written story,  something magical happened in the bedroom upstairs after Louise Mallard sat in her chair.  Something … supernatural which infested the house, its television, its doors, and curtains.

The Story of an Hour Slideshow




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