Hal Ashby’s film “Harold and Maude” (1971), written by Colin Higgins, is about the self-destructive obsessed teenager Harold, who meets an almost 80-year-old woman, Maude, at a funeral. Through a series of adventures, they become lovers and learn about one another. Harold is played by Bud Cort and Maude is played by Ruth Gordon. Another notable character in the movie would be Harold’s mom, who is played by Vivian Pickles. This film, in my opinion, was executed perfectly. The things that stood out to me the most were the mini-lessons Maude would give to Harold, the film’s mix of drama and comedy, and Harold’s attempts to spook his mother and their house guests.
The cinematography and lighting in this film made things a lot more interesting to watch and follow. For example, in the very beginning, where we first see Harold, we are greeted with dark moody lighting as Harold makes his way to the main room. The camera is positioned low in the beginning so that our eyes are focused on his actions, and it makes the audience wonder what is going to happen.
The camera then shifts to a light source, the window, and we are then greeted with Harold’s face. We also figure out what is going to happen, by seeing Harold hang himself, which for first-time watchers could be disturbing and shocking, but since the scene was set up so interestingly and quickly, it catches the audience’s attention within the first few moments of the film.
The film has an overwhelming amount of messages about life and death, but one of the scenes that drives home life in death in its whole was the flower garden scene. Harold claims he’d like to be a daisy because “they’re all alike”, but Maude quickly counters him by picking out a few of the many notable differences in each flower surrounding them. This point is emphasized as the camera shifts from a wide shot showing a sea of white flowers to a closer pan of many uniquely shaped flowers as Maude describes their differences. I interpreted this as representing Maude’s very individualistic and optimistic view of life. Just as we listen to her optimistic view on life regarding flowers there is a cut of them in a cemetery surrounded by a sea of white gravestones. This contrast from a sea of white flowers, now established as representing people in life, to a sea of white gravestones, a literal representation of people in death, is a great transition highlighting the finite nature of life. Maude shifts Harold’s perspective from a sea of alike flowers to an individual examined life. Flowers have a very temporary life, just as humans do, and I think that in this film, flowers are a symbol of human life. Maude holds a slightly wilted white daisy as she’s wheeled off to the hospital as if she were holding Harold’s life in her hands.