This is our fourth entry in The Film Experience's long-running series Hit Me With Your Best Shot, in which the film blog masses choose their favorite shot from selected movies.
With Part 1 of Gone With the Wind under our belts, it's time to talk Best Shot from the two-hour long second act.
Part 2 finds the Old South in ruins and the Yankees in control, but with Scarlett's help (and delusions), the action turns from a destitute plantation to an entrepreneurial enterprise to an all-out fantasy world (a la The Queen of Versailles) fortified with Rhett Butler's millions.
But mixed among these dramatic developments is some subtler imagery.
First, a triptych of closeups of Scarlett as she waits for news of the shantytown raid. Here she reveals a rare moment of concern for the troubles of the real world. But there's something else, too. With the camera an active observer, it's clear that as much as Scarlett relishes being watched she's uncomfortable being truly seen.
The scene contains a trove of shots that, like those above, zero in on the drama of individual characters, giving the audience a break from the sweeping crescendos and decrescendos of the surrounding epic.
The wide shots of the four women as they sit out the raid are particularly memorable. They may be knitting away the hours and waiting for their men to return, but to see the camera's gaze settle on four women for any length of time is a treat for a movie from 1939. (Bonus: the gun points straight at Scarlett in this shot like some sort of poetic justice. Does Melanie's subconscious overcome her unwavering kindness here?)
But our pick for Best Shot comes earlier, and it once again involves Scarlett, Mammy, and a mirror.
Here Scarlett may see her true reflection for the first time in the film. She's getting a glimpse of reality; her funhouse mirror is cracking. Once again, Mammy is shown only as a reflection, this time cut in two--torn between the worlds of the Old South and Reconstruction.
Of course whatever reality Scarlett sees is fleeting. With the help of her mirror, she soon notices the drapes behind her, which by the next scene are fashioned into a dress. She'll tear her world down for the chance to build it back up again.