Anatomy of a film scene – 2:
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

“I am not going to sit on my ass… as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life, I’m gonna take a stand… I’m gonna defend it. Right or wrong, I’m gonna defend it.”

Do you recall that nauseating feeling that shrouds you the moment you realize you’ve made a rather poignant mistake?

Cue the opening moment for the scene in the light.

For fans of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, we’ve endured the roller coaster thus far. We’ve enjoyed his follies, whilst being ‘sick’ from school. We’ve encountered the emotions when the Ferrari, reluctantly loaned to Ferris by best friend, Cameron, is returned from a parking garage in downtown Chicago with a hefty load of miles added to the odometer.

Now we’re brought to this mounding scene and the inherently ominous perpetual shake that is about to occur.

As Cameron watches nothing happening to the odometer with the car placed in reverse on an automotive crank lift, you witness that nausea set in. You can almost see the colour drift from his face as he turns away from Ferris to dissect his next moves. After another suggestion is prompted by Ferris, we see Cameron make a naive attempt at negating the situation at hand. Through a slow pause in the dialogue and an intended pregnant pause, we feel the gravity shift to Cameron’s, seemingly, immediate emotional maturity. The camera now shifts to his face, jaws clenched as he drifts into this revelation.

“I’m bullshit.” he suggests. This is his final moment in which he departs from the strife of being his father’s whipping boy into the maturity of a man that is in the “morning sun” painted moment of standing tall for himself.

Now. Things get a wee bit dark for a moment here. We watch as Cameron begins to deconstruct his relationship with his father and his reluctance to face the man, himself. He beats his fist to his chest in the moment when, one can only imagine, the numbness has succumb to a necessity for some feeling. Any feeling.

Let’s take a moment to remember that this is the 1980’s, children, teens and young adults rarely articulated their true, honest and, sometimes, painful feelings. We, as a generation, were somewhat censored. This moment, in Cameron’s entire life, is groundbreaking. Watch, Matthew Broderick in this very moment. Both he and Mia Sara are white faced, stone cold, stuck in this moment. We see Broderick take his hand out of his pocket in an attempt to loosen his stance and not feel so uptight. For a second (fractions of), his eyes make contact with the camera indicating his and Sara’s awareness that this moment was scripted but Alan Ruck’s motions were improvised. It truly drives the moment home. We’re there in the scene.

In this, unfolding moment, Cameron starts separating the fine lines that dictate his relationship with his father and begins analyzing his role as an oppressed child. He understands, now, that nothing will change unless he cuts the proverbial umbilical cord. He justifies his, slowly unraveling thoughts, suggesting that, regardless of right or wrong, his next potential moments are actions taken in defence.

Then. Comes. The. Beauty.

As he places the first kick into the lavishly polished chrome bumper of the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB, California Spider edition (valued at approximately $300,000 in today’s economy and $133,215 in 1986), we can hear the engine rev symbolic of the antagonizing of a demon.

Kick, kick, kick, dent, scuff, kick, dent, kick, break. Cameron’s run, skid and stop last moment is an action designed for us to take a moment, a sigh, a collapse, a pause in what is seemingly, unraveling as a rather ‘breaking point’ for our young friend. We’ve, in the course of a few moments, been placed within this family, we’ve become a part of Cameron.

He pauses to reflect on his undoings. He sniffs, inhaling his extreme down, then chuckles as we now are introduced to the Cameron who can stand in front of his father.

It’s at this moment, as we watch Cameron deliver his analogies and suggestions on the current and the future, that we are drawn back to that cold, dark moment of not fully understanding what Cameron has to put up with while having to manage his father. For the moment, the reality, the scene and in all actuality, it is irrelevant. Hence the vacancy of ‘not knowing’.

With his new sense of understanding and with a “to hell with him”, hommage to his father, Cameron proudly displays his new found glory and… whoops. Perhaps a wee bit too cocky?

Cameron “killed the car”. 300 grand, now sitting in the gully of some lush ravine. Cameron questions Ferris and Sloan on “what he did”. It was responded with head shakes and eye stares to which Cameron reiterates his question. “What. Did. I. Do.”?

“You killed the car.”

Cameron walks slowly towards the shattered glass, of a wall, that is now the backdrop for a rather uncomfortable scene. He closes in on Ferris and Sloan as the camera takes perspective and looks across the ravine and pans down to the remains of a tire-spinning, limp muppet looking mess of a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT.

There is a rather delicious, albeit short, pregnant pause here. Followed by Cameron’s realisation of what just happened.

Then (and I love this part) you see him calculating EVERYTHING that just happened and will happen… as he looks toward his watch which is “face backing to the inner wrist and top face to the eyes. (look at the scene)”. THAT is not something that you “direct” in a film.

That. Just. Happens.

Ferris interjects and assumes responsibility as the, suggested, degenerate he is (based on 1980’s films).

Cameron has become the man he so longed and needed to be. He complacently becomes a satisfied character in the most recent muse of his former life.

The scene transitions out with Cameron’s acceptance of what just happened and his understanding of his new place in his relationship with his father.

Honestly, it all closes with a mixed feeling of discomfort and satisfaction. We’re, through the magic of film, given the good, the bad and the ugly.

Long story, short. It’s up to your discretion.

Watch the scene here:

Copyright: Paramount Pictures