from using color, sounds, and music as emotion and cinematic language,
Anderson features other visual forms of expression through symbolism.
the most notable uses of visual symbolism as expression lies within
a key element of the film: the harmonium. There are several interpretations
that can be made for the meaning of the harmonium, all of which
the film supports, but above all it represents of a symbol of
love, or more notably the love shared by Barry and Lena. Like
love, the harmonium suddenly arrives to Barry and he slowly learns
to play it. The harmonium suffers tears after Barry gets into
trouble with the phone sex operation. However it is in the lovely
final shot of the film which establishes the connection of love
and the harmonium as Lena tells Barry "So here we go"
and holds him, while he is playing the harmonium in-sync with
Jon Brion's beautiful score.
harmonium is visually expressed as a connection of Lena and Barry.
Notice several examples in the way Anderson frame the composition
in particular scenes with Barry and Lena. When Barry first meets
Lena as she drops off her car, the harmonium is framed (in a distance)
between the two. This is also evident in the scene when his sister
Elizabeth brings Lena to Barry's office, as the harmonium is again
framed between the two, visually expressing a connection. This
is also captured emotionally for Barry, who at the end of the
film realizes, as he tells Dean "the love in his life
that makes him stronger then anything you can imagine"
his connection with both Lena and the harmonium (or the relationship).
other interesting moment in which the harmonium is shown as visual
or emotional expression of love is as a potentially lost or abandon
relationship. This is subtly expressed in the first sequence with
Dean "The Mattress Man" Trumbell. As he is giving the
four blonde brothers the instructions to go after Barry, a harmonium
can briefly be seen in the frame. However it is shown in poor
or old condition. Could this represent a former love/relationship
for Dean? Perhaps this is why he understands Barry's "strength"
and does not confront him at the end, as he once felt the love
Barry has for Lena.
harmonium arrives to Barry through a red taxi, which drops it
off directly in front of him in the street. This happens immediately
after a red car flips and rolls over. Much like the mystery of
the harmonium, this sudden crash is let open for some interpretations
(most of which are supported in various ways by the film, even
including some odd theories about outer space- which will be discussed
more in Part IV). What it does is share the expression of the
harmonium, as the crash perhaps represents the sudden arrival
of love or a change in Barry's isolated and entrapped physical
and emotional state.
of the key elements of the film is Barry's emotional and physical
state, which is generally expressed through the use of colors
(As described previously in Part II: Colors, Sounds, and Music).
Barry is often found closed or trapped (emotionally and physically)
within his own loneliness. Lena represents a change and feeling
of freedom and ultimately of love. It is the supermarket as well
as Hawaii which represents a feeling of hope and possibility for
Barry and Anderson expresses this through the visual imagery of
the film. Notice how open and bright the frame and composition
is within the supermarket and Hawaii. This expresses Barry's feelings
of possibility, and heavily contrasts with his everyday work and
home environment of isolation.
expression is also subtly captured in two contrasting sequences
of the composition. First we see Barry at his work environment
being cornered and "nagged" by his sister. In the middle
of the frame, Anderson displays a picture that appears to be of
his office building. Now this would seem very minor, but when
contrasted with a later scene we see that this is consciously
placed here as a form of expression. Contrast the picture at the
office with the picture placed in the middle of the frame when
Barry and Lena are out to dinner. Where the picture with his sister
at the office is a closed-in and uninspiring one of his own office
building, the picture with Lena is free and open. Through subtle
use of composition, Anderson captures the contrast of Barry's
emotional state and how his feelings for Lena represent hope,
possibility, and love.
Another visual symbol expressed in Punch-Drunk Love is Anderson's
use of long haul 18-wheeler trucks, which are commonly known for
their endless traveling. While they could be a symbol for Lena,
who is always traveling, ultimately the use of trucks are captured
as an emotional expression of longing. The longing of two lonely
souls who are traveling or searching for connection and love.
trucks are visually shown in a variety of different ways. A couple
examples include the moment when Barry takes the harmonium into
his office, as a truck crashes past him as if it's telling him
to take it. Or (as mentioned previously in Part II) the red truck
that Barry runs toward when he leaves to Hawaii. Also, in one
of the most beautiful shots in the film: as Barry and Lena leave
the restaurant together a truck is shown driving by them slowly.
Not only is the truck's brakes playing alongside Brion's score,
but as it passes Barry and Lena, a slogan can be read which seems
to be talking to them: "Relocation at it's best!".
film opens with an expressive shot that captures the emotional
and physical state of Barry's character. It also contains two
other elements that are used as visual symbols: the phone and
pudding, which each share a similar expression. The pudding is
something that gives Barry's isolation and loneliness an escape
or meaning. Ultimately however the pudding is a connection to
Lena and to love which is Barry's redemption. It is the pudding
(through the discovery of the Frequent Flyer Miles promotion)
which gives Barry his freedom and opportunity to travel, and above
all to be with Lena.
phone is also displayed as a connection to the outside world for
Barry, who's emotional and physical state is one of entrapment,
isolation, and loneliness. He is tortured by his seven sisters
on the phone. Also, when he is canceling his credit card he ask
the woman her name and then says "it's nice to meet you",
and when he arrives in Hawaii he first asks for a phone. He even
uses the phone as his source of sex and calls a phone-sex hotline.
Above all the phone presents an escape for Barry's loneliness,
and may even be a symbol for his loneliness. When he goes to confront
Dean in Utah, Barry is seen holding a phone. After he gets Dean
to say "That's that", Barry walks out, but before
doing so he hands the phone to one of Dean employees. This is
an expression of Barry's redemption and the end of his loneliness.
Notice the music playing in the background at this moment. The
title of the song is, Lonely Blue Boy, which is used as
an ironic metaphor, as Barry is no longer a "lonely blue