Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Empty Suitcase...

As well as looking at lampshades in films, I have a thing about suitcases. I always fret during a film when I see a character carrying a suitcase. Given that it is nearly always a dramatic moment, ie a new character arriving into the narrative or someone hurriedly leaving a horrible relationship, I always note that the suitcase has nothing in it. 

  I know this instinctively as I loathe carrying heavy luggage, regard it as a personal insult against dignity. Yet these actors seething with emotion, stocked to the gills with Stella Adler hysteria, never think to say to the costume department or props: put an encyclopedia in it.

   Then at least the character would have the true burdan of shifting: which is the deadweight of your past life being schlepped into a new situation. It’s full of horror and hope. It’s a ball and chain around your leg. It’s also a very particular physical reality which expresses something deeply psychological. 

   Yet I challenge you, in the next film you see: look carefully at the body language of the actor carrying luggage. You will inevitably see someone holding a completely empty suitcase.

   Or is this a metaphor for the lost power of cinema? Its failure to connect with reality and just re-issue tired old cliches? Possibly.

   Or else it’s a failure of the props dept, sitting out the back, enjoying a quiet fag.


  1. Have you ever seen the body language of an actor holding a new-born baby you can't see like when they're running. I always imagine brain damage, Starship hospital, and the police! Great post. :)

  2. The fascinating thing with movies and tv is they abound with these miracles of inconsistencies. And alas, once you start noticing....

  3. Peter - a kindred spirit at last!
    I'm an actor and it drives me berserk that not just at crucial moments - but as a convention in movies - suitcases are ALWAYS empty. It's almost always true on stage too.
    Can anyone explain why?
    David H

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