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The Little Foxes (1941)

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Gallery 2

The Use of Reflective Images in THE LITTLE FOXES

Wyler makes extensive use of mirrors and reflected images in THE LITTLE FOXES, both to expand the possibilities of shot composition and for dramatic effect.  Below are several examples.

SHOT 1:
Alexandra and Addie drive by the bank in their carriage and have a brief conversation with Harold the doorman who is polishing the plaque outside Horace's bank.  Because Wyler chooses to show the carriage reflected in the shiny plaque instead of cutting away from it to show a direct shot of Zanny and Addie, the shot doesn't overemphasize the passing conversation (about what the Giddens' are serving for dinner) and instead serves as an introduction for the bank.

SHOT 2:
One of the few direct uses of a mirror in the film.  Regina pauses to examine herself in the bedroom mirror and reflect on her appearance, how she has changed, and what she sees in herself that is not immediately obvious to others on the surface.

SHOT 3:
Addie washes Alexandra's hair and Regina (reflected in the right window) intrudes on both the scene and the conversation.

SHOT 4:
Yet another atypical dinner table shot, this one taking advantage of a mirror on the wall behind the table to show the spatial relationship between the characters at the table and their reactions to the conversation, while at the same time emphasizing Ben's condescending verbal abuse of Aunt Birdie in the foreground. Note also that whereas the camera should be reflected in the mirror on the wall over Alexandra's right shoulder, it is not, preserving the integrity of the shot.

SHOT 5:
The living room after dinner.  Another creative use of mirrors in shot composition to allow all the characters' faces to be seen without having them all face the camera in an artificially arranged, fully frontal setup.

SHOT 6:
The shaving scene, and one of the most inspired uses of reflected images in the history of film. The juxtaposed mirrors capture the faces of both actors even though they are facing away from each other, and captures them from the point of view of the characters themselves.

SHOT 7:
Leo sneaks down to the bank at night to steal the bonds from Horace's safe deposit box, and though no one else sees him, the audience does, as his image is reflected in the bank's shiny plaque -- ironically emphasizing the official name of the bank, a "trust" company, which Leo is about to violate.

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Last updated: March 10, 2011.
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