Sunset Boulevard tells the tragedy of lost fame and the downfall of a celebrated silent film actress. Despite the film being over 65 years old, it is still considered to be one of the absolute Hollywood classics.
Diverting from conventional Hollywood films at the time, Sunset Boulevard unexpectedly begins at the end, showing the dead body of Joe Gillis in Norma Desmond’s pool. Immediately grasping and continuously keeping the audiences’ attention, we learn the story of how Gillis ended up there and are dragged into Desmond’s madness.
Despite some limitations of film technologies at the time, Sunset Boulevard was able to display the eerie and sinister mansion that Norma Desmond lives in, perfectly matching the lost glory of her younger years. This effect is especially reached through the clever use of shadows that are especially contrasting against bright, contrasting lights when we are confronted with Norma’s delusional fantasies. These dark, shadowy scenes are in stark contrast to the brighter and more light-hearted scenes where we follow Gillis into his live outside of Desmond’s mansion. This difference between the mansion and life outside of it helps us to fully grasp the life full of desperation that Desmond lives.
All in all, Sunset Boulevard has been able to sway audiences from 1950 until now, through brilliant screenwriting and perfectly tailored cinematography. The combination of this excellent film making with the amazing performance of the actors results in a timeless masterpiece.