Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard is a 1950 American classic black comedy and drama movie. It is perhaps the most acclaimed, but darkest film-noir story about “behind the scenes” Hollywood. Billy Wilder is the director and co-writer of the movie. Many critics praised the movie when it first came out. It was honored with eleven Academy Awards nominations, and won three of them.

The movie begins at a Sunset Boulevard mansion, where a body floats in the swimming pool. A voice-over narration tells us what has happened. A murder has been reported, and the voice tells us that we probably will read about it in the late editions, because an old-time star is involved in the case. Then the voice explains that he will take us six months back to when it all started, and we get the story about a poor screenwriter, Joe.

While escaping from repossession men trying to take his car, Joe pulls over into a driveway of an apparently deserted mansion. After parking the car in the garage, he meets Norma Desmond, a retired actress. Norma offers Joe a job, which he accepts because of his money problems, and a room in her house. After a while, the two of them get attached to one another, and they introduce a relationship where Norma takes care of Joe economically, and Joe keeps Norma company. Joe is dragged deeper and deeper into the situation, and finds himself stuck after a while. He cannot leave, as that will be heart breaking to Norma, which apparently has suicide thoughts, and because he is not able to face the reality outside the house where all of his real problems awaits. The movie ends with him trying to leave her, and she fires three shots in his back as he tries to get away from her. The action in the movie builds up to this moment, which is the climax.

Joe and Norma are the two main characters in this movie. I would say that Joe is the protagonist since he is the narrator, but it is actually Norma’s story that is told during the movie. Joe is a poor screenwriter who has failed to succeed with his career. Norma is a deluded, tragic, ambitious actress whose career declined with the coming of sound. When the two of them meet, both of their lives change. Joe sees an opportunity to earn some quick money, and Norma, who is very lonely, braces herself to the company she can get. The two of them develop an unnatural relationship where both are dependent of the other one for different reasons. When Joe brakes free and decides to leave Norma, she reaches her bursting point. This is the last straw for her, and she loses her last piece of sanity. The last scene in the movie portrays her as delusional and tragic, and this is the part of the movie where is almost gets horrific.  The movie ends with Norma who walks down the stairs in her house with all eyes form journalists, cops, and photographers on her. This walk down the staircase is a metaphor of her downfall, and the movie ends when she reaches the very bottom.

Self-deceit, greed, emptiness, the prise of fame, and ambition are central themes in the movie. The story mixes both facts and fiction, dream and reality, and exposes the corruptive, shattering influences of “the new” Hollywood. The film is both tragic and funny, describing a sad story influenced by humour and witty comments.


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