by Brody Rossiter
Starring Robin Williams in what can easily be considered as his most strikingly serious role, One Hour Photo is a visually distinct and deeply unsettling picture that delves into the darker reaches of the human psyche.
Williams’ Sy Parrish is a softly-spoken photo technician. On the surface he is a polite and professional individual whose life revolves around his work, yet behind closed doors, Sy’s longing to “fit in” has mutated into a terrifying fascination. After developing their photographs for near to a decade, his sustained exposure to the Yorkin’s “picturesque” family life fosters an obsession with a lifestyle he can never truly achieve, and a unit he can never be part of.
Director Mark Romanek made his name directing some of pop-cultures most famed music videos (a quick Google search will reveal the true extent of his influence and talents), and despite its sinister subject matter, the film exhibits a striking and often dreamlike visual style. A variety of colourful sequences that employ red, blue, green and yellow filters are used to highlight Sy’s fragile emotional state and his ability to hide it from those around him; an explicit example is how the colour red highlights anger and frustration. Yet despite this definite use of colour, stark white shades prove to be the most dominant throughout – the lack of colour representing Sy’s lonely and isolated existence.
Cinematographer and longtime David Fincher collaborator Jeff Cronenweth was responsible for outwardly representing Sy’s inner demons. Reinhold Heil & Johnny Klimek’s fairtyle-esque score further accentuates Sy’s fondness for immersing himself in fantasy – discordant spikes unnervingly hinting at the stark reality from which he flees.
In an increasingly digital age (the picture received its theatrical release back in 2002) Sy’s existence grows ever more uncertain and unstable. His one social link (the workplace) is increasingly undermined, further loosening Sy’s grip upon his sanity in the process. When a shocking revelation undermines the Yorkin’s existence too, Sy’s begins to embark upon an often startling, strangely sympathetic, yet consistently chilling journey that will change the lives of those around him forever.