Death scenes are some of the most impactful moments in cinema. After spending hours with a character we become so emotionally attached and require an thematic send off. Think of instances like “Fellowship of the Ring” when Boromir takes three arrows to the chest to save Frodo. Or even “The Departed” when Collin Sullivan (Matt Damon) finally meets his maker. However, when filmmakers consciously choose to kill a character offscreen it can be just as powerful.
CineFix’s latest video essay dives into 4 brilliant moments of offscreen death. Additionally, the video analyzes why these moments are so impactful by looking at the simple filmmaking techniques it took to pull them off. For instance, “Stand By Me” uses a dissolve, voice over and a hard cut to text on screen.
“Moonlight” handles offscreen death in a similar way. After establishing Juan (Mahershala Ali) as the heart of the film in Act 1 we instantly grow attached to his character. The film opens with him and we spend much of the films first 20 minutes purely following Juan around. Once “Moonlight” jumps forward years into the future in Act 2, we slowly reencounter the same characters. All except Juan. The longer he is absent from the screen the more we begin to worry that he is dead. Various characters subtly drop clues that he has passed before it is eventually overtly stated. As Chiron attempts to embody him, Juan’s death shapes the rest of the film despite it never being shown.
For a in detail analysis of how “Stand By Me,” “Moonlight,” “The Sopranos,” and “Synecdoche, New York” utilize offscreen death to great cinematic effect check out the video above or click here.