Remember, rain means…
December 2, 2007
Turns out it was the single most useful paper I took. Of course, I was doing a BA in politics and literature so that’s not too hard.
And of all the things I learned about the director’s art, there’s one single, simple rule I learned that has proved to be more use than anything else I learned at university.
That rule is: rain means change.
Any time you see rain in a movie or TV show it means something dramatic is about to happen.
Don’t believe me? Try it out for yourself.
Disney’s Robin Hood, for example. All is merry and light until it buckets down, and then poor Friar Tuck is imprisoned and given a death sentence, spurring Robin into action.
Or The Lion King. Again, all is fun and frolicking until it rains (early on) and then Ol Scar stitches up Dad good and proper.
It’s not just Disney, either. It works with just about any film. TV, well American TV in particular, is also susceptible to the rule that must be obeyed.
The West Wing, the final episode of season two: Two Cathedrals. From the synopsis:
A tropical storm is bearing down on Washington on the day the President is to disclose that he has MS and has been lying about it for eight years.
That’s right. A tropical storm. Also, it’s the episode where he comes to terms with Mrs Landingham having been bumped off, so it’s rain all round.
Or ER, for example. Considering it’s based in Chicago and that’s a fairly wet town, the number of episodes where it does actually rain are quite few. One of the best has to be Hell and High Water (see? thought I was joking, didn’t you?) where Doug rescues a boy from a drain where a deluge of rain (!) threatens to drown him. Doug himself is covered in water during the rescue and eventually decides to leave the ER for a more peaceful life in Seattle (where it rains a lot).
Just about every US TV show does this at some time or other. The rumble of thunder, the pelting of rain on the window heralding major change for the protagonist. The wetter they get, the bigger the change.
Even cartoons aren’t immune. In The Incredibles Mr Incredible comes home with a fancy new secret agent job, a car and there’s a lovely little montage number with music. Instead of the dull boring relationship he and Mrs Incredible (no, I know that’s not her name) have had recently, suddenly he grabs her from behind and kisses her passionately while she’s watering the garden and who do you think gets soaked to the skin? That’s right.
Sometimes it’s not as straight forward as it might seem. Snow – it’s frozen rain… so does that mean change has ceased to occur? Could be. Maybe everyone’s stuck in a rut… The best example of that would be in Toni Morrison’s novel Sula where the entire town goes out on the ice and all drown horribly (oh, sorry. SPOILER ALERT) because they’ve failed to keep up with progress. (It’s also a great novel for other symbolism – a working-class man is betrayed by his hands. BY HIS HANDS! What, do you want me to draw you a picture?)