I recently watched John Hughes’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). It was partly an attempt to put off school work for a few hours but also to watch an often-mentioned-at-least-in-passing film by the director of The Breakfast Club (1985).

Its editing, especially in the opening scene, brought to mind a more recent film: Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010). It’s perhaps fair to say that both pictures are aimed predominantly at teenage viewers. Objectivity is lent to Scott Pilgrim by the fast paced cuts, comic book framing and game system life bars; Bueller has a similarly fast pace and cheeky comments directed at the camera. Both share on-screen lists, which, in Scott Pilgrim, name characters and, in Bueller, explain the perfect means of getting off school.

But in a film that is undeniably objective in the main, there is an ambiguous set-up in the opening scene that caught my eye because it seems so subjective. Matthew Broderick’s performance as Ferris is, from the very start, over the top and tongue-in-cheek. Simply, we understand that he is not unwell. As the scene progresses, there is a shot reverse shot sequence involving Ferris and his parents. When his sister (Jennifer Grey) enters, she glares at Ferris, complaining about the situation. After a close shot of Ferris tucked under his covers, we see what must be a point of view shot from the bed at Jeanie. As she stands there, she begins to go out of focus until she is a real blur.

What happens here? We are presented apparently with what Ferris sees. We feel by this point that he is actually in perfect health and it’s fair to believe, then, that his sight has no reason to shift in and out of focus. The set-up is surely not what Ferris sees but what his parents (not Jeanie, who suspects he’s well) think he is seeing. It halts the narrative’s linear temporal development for a moment and presents a few seconds of a could-be or could-have-been.

Anyway, just a thought. After this set-up, the film’s relentlessly entertaining.

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