Glossary

The Back Row Glossary is a collection of cinema tropes, genres, terms and themes that we have slowly complied over the years. This is a continually updated part of our website, check back regularly to see what gets added.


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Bubbles – 1. Seen in western and American movies as a sign of innocence and childhood.
2. Fragility, things too delicate to exist.
3. The threat of bursting, bubbles being seen as artificials swells of prosperity that cannot be maintained.
Ex. Margot Robbie drinking champagne in a bubble bath while discussing 2008’s housing crisis in The Big Short.

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Electrical lines - 1. In a positive light, electrical lines are shown as progress and civilization moving forward, most commonly seen in period pieces.
2. In a negative light, electrical lines are shown as webs across the sky that are trapping humans and the overgrowth of the artificial in the natural world.
Ex. The constant and looming power structures in The Summer of Sangaile and The Red Desert.

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Shadows – 1. Representing the unknown, ominous or otherwise.
2. The draw and pull of human darkness, often a foreshadowing of that darkness taking over.
Ex. The shadow of the murderer falling over the soon-to-be-murdered little girl in Fritz Lange’s “M.

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Train Tracks – 1. Indicative of journeys and, considering the context, the passage of time.
Ex. The long shots of the boys walking along the train tracks as they grow apart or together in Stand By Me.
2. American westerns use train and train tracks as a sign of civilization taking over a hostile world.
Ex. All of Once Upon a Time in the West.

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White – 1. In western cultures, white is often used as the color of purity, goodness, and virtue. Usually, characters wearing white are expected to be protagonists of moral fiber.
2. In eastern cultures, white is the color of death and mourning.

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