Five Feet Apart

by Rachael Lippincott

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What are some film techniques in the film Five Feet Apart by Justin Baldoni that explore the themes of love and death?

Quick answer:

In Five Feet Apart, Baldoni used several techniques to explore the themes of love and death, such as symbolic lighting and props that represent the complexities of love and death. For example, consider how the camera captures Stella and Will touching the same pole by the pool to mimic touching one another. The silence in this moment, combined with the actors’ expressive displays of emotion and the soft lighting, emphasize the love between the characters.

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In the film Five Feet Apart, director Justin Baldoni used several film techniques to explore the themes of love and death. In terms of the theme of love, Baldoni utilized specific lighting choices and props to symbolize the characters’ tender emotions. He also directed the actors to express the characters’ feelings with their facial expressions instead of dialogue in particular scenes. For example, consider the intense emotions that are clearly evident in the scene in which Stella and Will sit by the pool. Because they are not allowed to touch each other, they each touch separate ends of a pole to symbolize their desire to touch one another’s bodies. In this scene, Baldoni chose to focus the camera’s shots on the actors’ hand movements and facial expressions. These choices emphasize the strong feelings the characters feel for one another.

Also, consider the way that Baldoni uses the symbol of light in several scenes throughout the movie to symbolize the romantic spark between Stella and Will. For example, the two of them sneak out one night, because Stella wants to see the city lights. Then, later, when Will decides to separate from Stella, he sets up a beautiful light display to show her that he is leaving her because he loves her. Again, the actors’ expressive facial expressions in this scene, highlighted by the curated soft lighting, reflect the tragedy that often accompanies authentic love.

In a similar way, Baldoni’s use of light also explores the theme of death. Consider Stella and Will’s conversation about what death is like. “Maybe it’s just a big sleep,” Will says. “Lights out. Done and done.” Here the notion of “lights out” suggests that death means that the love and emotions people feel in life (which Baldoni represents with light) are extinguished.

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