Anthony Minghella uses startling symbolism to delve into the psyche of the complex characters in his 1999 film, The Talented Mr. Ripley. In the beginning of the scene Tom Ripley, played by Matt Damon, is sticky with sweat and out of breath. In the next scene, we are given a stark close up of Damon’s face through the window of a moving vehicle. The rain suggests a somber mood and the focus on Damon’s face implies he is deep into thought, contemplating the next move in the intricate game he is plotting. He soon startles Marge, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, while she is outside emerged in the working on her book. Her abrupt scream suggests that she has reason to fear the character of Tom; he is also dressed in the villainous shade of black in harsh contrast with Marge who is wearing light shades such as white and tan. Marge is also in the sitting relaxed at the table; on the contrary Tom is standing rigidly sending cryptic messages to Marge, including “I guess we’re abandoned.”
The scene is once again rapidly transitioned to Marge dropping the ice on the floor. These quick transitions keep the audience on the edge of their seats, always having a looming mood of suspense. While Marge is crying her love interest’s sudden disappearance, Tom is arranging the table and fighting his smile. This action suggests that he is nervous but excited over the progress he has made in his pursuit to become Dickie.
The next major scene skips back and forth to the genuine Tom character and Tom imitating Dickie. The most prominent physical differences between the two personas of Tom Ripley are his awkward, chunky glasses and the level of neatness of Tom’s hair and clothing choice. The Tom impersonating Dickie character seems to be more confidence, smiling and having clever conversations.
Later Meredith, played by Cate Blanchett, spots Tom, who she believed to be Dickie, through store window. Although he can now more easily slip between the two roles he plays, he shows signs of nervousness such as keeping his hands in his pockets. But Tom also seems impressed with his own performance, such as when he receives money from the bank. He also changes into a black turtleneck, which shows how he is covering up his old, true persona and becoming more consumed with his role as Dickie and the power it brings him.
One of the first shots of Meredith and Tom (acting as Dickie,) at the opera is a shot from behind, showing both of their backs, with a clear view of the tragic opera. The climatic result of the duel in the opera when the actor gets shot is clearly reflected in Tom’s face. He experiences an intense moment: he is clearly moved signified through the single tear he sheds. Tom seems to conclude that he must bestow the same fate upon Dickie: he realizes he must kill Dickie in order to become the person he so ruthlessly covets.
The next morning, Tom, gazes over the piazza, once again showing how he is spying on Marge, Peter, and Meredith. He always seems to be analyzing his predicaments and situations. The two women, Marge and Meredith, are dressed in the innocent hues of white and yellow while Peter is dressed in a heavy brown coat, perhaps suggesting he is working with Tom Ripley or he will eventually dethrone Tom in his game of manipulation.
The final scene we viewed of Freddie and Tom’s fight is disturbing. Freddie is clearly suspicious of Tom’s role in Dickie’s disappearance. He antagonizes Tom by playing sharp, stabbing notes on the piano claiming: “the only thing that looks like Dickie is you…something’s going on.” The prominent green in the apartment represents the constant envy that Tom feels for Dickie’s lifestyle and surroundings. Tom then proceeds to brutally beat Freddie with the classical-style bust. It is very interesting that Tom decides to hit his opponent with a piece of art. This could suggest that his manipulation is so entangled it has become an art form or that he is using his so-called “talents” in a malicious, unproductive way. The last frame the audience sees in an almost-full profile of Tom’s face with a spiteful snarl this implies he is finally meeting a force of opposition and his raging envy and complex web of lies will finally be broken through in an epic battle.