What’s Behind the Curtain?: Veiled Truth in THE CRYING GAME
9 June 2013
In his 1992 political thriller, The Crying Game, Neil Jordan creates a world of instability, danger, and desolation; a world where truth is concealed and, because of that concealment, no one and nothing can be trusted. More pointedly, The Crying Game explores how truth is guised, and how disguised truth creates a bleak and dangerous world for those caught up in it. To highlight the theme of truth guised, Jordan veils his characters, sets, and even props, literally and figuratively. Veils conceal or disfigure truth, and Jordan’s consistent and creative veiling in The Crying Game effectively communicates how elusive truth is in this political thriller.
One of the first veils in The Crying Game is a literal one, the black canvas sack which covers Jody’s (Forest Whitaker) head. Literally, the sack is necessary because Jody is taken prisoner by a group of IRA fighters, but figuratively the sack is part of the veiling motif Jordan establishes; the sack conceals not only Jody’s eyes from seeing his kidnappers, but also Jody’s own identity and secrets. The audience first meets Jody when he is on a date with Jude (a female), indicating he is heterosexual; however, during his imprisonment, his comments and behavior toward Fergus (Stephen Rea), the male IRA fighter who guards Jody after his capture, suggest there may be more to his sexuality. Interestingly, during these suggestive moments, when Jody’s sexuality becomes ambiguous, Jody is unmasked. For example, Jody tells Fergus about his girlfriend, Dil (Jaye Davidson), continuing the presumption Jody is a heterosexual male. However, one night when Fergus takes a tied-up Jody outside to urinate, and an awkward moment passes between the two men, one that calls Jody’s sexuality into question. Importantly, the black canvas sack is off Jody’s head during this moment. It is almost as though if Jody were never veiled in this sack his truth, in this case his sexual identity, could be revealed. Yet, Jody is veiled; the sack he wears hides parts of his truth, and he is forced back behind the sack before anything concrete about his sexuality can be revealed. It is not until later in the film, after Fergus seeks Dil out, when the audience learns more about Jody and his hidden truth.
As it turns out, the girlfriend Jody tells Ferus about is actually a cross-dresser, and because of that secrecy in Dil’s sexual orientation Jordan veils her more than any other character in The Crying Game. Like Jody, Dil’s veils conceal truth; Dil is a man living as a woman, a cross-dresser disguised in female costumes, hair, and make-up. Regarding sex, what she appears to be is not true. Beyond just appearance, her set and props are also heavily veiled. First, sheer curtains surround her bed, and Jordan often films the action on and around her bed through these curtains. Thus, like her costuming, the curtains contribute literally and metaphorically to Dil’s veiled sexuality. Moreover, next to her bed is a lamp, and that lamp is draped in a sheer, red piece of fabric. Because a lamp gives off light, and light is often a symbol of truth, the veiled lamp next to Dil’s bed continues to highlight truth is being concealed. Eventually, Dil’s true sex does come to light, but it is not until after Jordan explores her veils, and uses Dil’s veils to emphasize how elusive and hidden truth is in The Crying Game.
Even Jude (Miranda Richardson), a secondary yet important character in The Crying Gam, is veiled. Jude is a tricky character to understand or relate to, in large part because, as an IRA fighter, her alliances are with a cause and not people. As a result, she is numb and not emotionally driven (in the impulsive and expressive way one might typically think of those who are emotionally driven), making her more than an antagonist; she is a hazardous enigma. The audience never learns any truth about Jude. Does she have feelings for Fergus? Enough information is revealed to question it, but not enough to answer it with certainty. Where does she come from? How did she get to where she is as an IRA fighter? Is Jude actually her name? None of this is know, and as a terrorist, none of this can be known; to do her work she must free herself of an identity. Of all the characters she is the most elusive and, therefore, one most in need of veiling. When she reappears midway through the film her appearance has changed. Originally appearing as a blonde in casual garb, Jude reemerges with short, poker-straight, black hair and more formal, business-like attire; a drastic makeover and a dramatic, intimidating new look. While neither of her looks reveals any significance, the fact that her appearance changes highlights there is no truth about her; Jude’s truth is veiled entirely.
Moreover, the film’s protagonist, Fergus may be one of the most truthful characters, but is still greatly veiled in The Crying Game. Like Jude, Fergus changes his appearance, from long-haired to short-haired, but the most overt veil Fergus disguises himself with is his name. When he seeks out Dil he changes his name from Fergus to Jimmy. Fergus conceals his true identity from Dil by changing his name. Since “Jimmy” is not real, “Jimmy” has no past. Fergus does not initially reveal anything to Dil about Jody and his involvement in Jody’s death. As Jimmy, Fergus veils the truth.
The consistent veiling in The Crying Game works well for Neil Jordan because it effectively communicates how bleak and unstable the world is for these characters in this political thriller. In The Crying Game, truth is as mysterious and secrecy; in fact, the truth is secret and the existence of secrets is the only truth. The veils are both a literal, tangible representation of truth hidden, and also a metaphoric representation of truth’s concealment. Nevertheless, literal or figurative, veils, as a motif in The Crying Game, are successfully employed by Jordan.
~ by Kate Bellmore on 09/06/2013.