Study Questions: “Far from Heaven” (Todd Haynes, 2002)
- Make a list of the major settings in the film (e.g. the affluent suburban town, Cathy and Frank’s house) and then discuss what each might help reveal about the themes and the characters in the film.
- Identify the visual elements that help create a sense of “claustrophobia” in the film.
- What do you think about the way the colors are used in the film? Do they reveal anything about the themes or the characters?
- What do you think about the way Cathy and her female friends are represented in the film? What do their representations tell you about gender roles?
- What could the surname “Whitaker” symbolize?
- In the film Cathy and Frank are called “Mr. and Mrs. Magnatech”. What does this reveal about the societal values as depicted in the film?
- Watch the scene where Cathy’s friends talk about their husbands and their sex life. Analyze their talk to find out how women and men are positioned in marriage as far as sexuality is concerned.
- What do you think about the representation of race in the film? Is it only one-sided? Why? Why not?
- What is the significance of servants in the film? Think about Sybil who takes care of the Whitaker house and the male servant at the cocktail party.
- Do some research about how homosexuality was perceived in the 1950s and then discuss how accurately you believe the film reflects this perception.
- Identify the scenes and the dialogues where homosexuality is mentioned. Then discuss what they reveal about how homosexuality is perceived by the society in which Frank and Cathy live.
- In the film the Ritz movie theater is one of the repeatedly used locations. We see 4 films listed there: “Three Faces of Eve”, “Miracle in the Rain”, “Hilda Crane” and “The Bold and the Brave”. Find out in what ways these films could have symbolic value for “Far from Heaven”.
- Discuss the significance of the film’s title.
© Ali Nihat Eken, Istanbul, November 2008 Movie still – Courtesy of Focus Pictures