Opinion | John Frankenheimer Pointed His Camera Toward the Things We Cannot Escape

It doesn’t, after all. He’s nonetheless caught and nonetheless misplaced and nonetheless alienated from himself. “The physique is reborn,” wrote the critic David Sterritt in his 2013 essay on the movie, “however the spirit stays lifeless.” In desperation, Hamilton/Wilson returns to the anonymous — though not faceless — firm that gave him his new life and pleads for a second, second probability. They oblige, in a method, bringing the movie to its surprising, sobering conclusion.

Considerably uncommon amongst Hollywood administrators of the time, Frankenheimer was, notes Sterritt, preoccupied with the “darker aspect” of the Sixties: “the bitter aftertaste of McCarthyism, the increasing military-industrial advanced, the rising sense that expertise may be controlling us as an alternative of the opposite method round.” He was contemptuous of American consumerism and the “American dream” — the concept you possibly can purchase achievement from a catalog.

On the similar time, Frankenheimer seems to have been suspicious of the concept you possibly can escape from your self, that you possibly can free your self of your obligations and commit your self to self-discovery. “Seconds” captures each instincts, together with the ironic recognition that whichever path you’re taking, the home by no means loses — capital at all times reaps its earnings.

I can’t finish this with out mentioning two different components of “Seconds.” There’s the summary and ominous title sequence, designed and filmed by Saul Bass, and there’s the look of the movie itself, a tour de pressure of cinematic pictures by James Wong Howe, one of many geniuses of the shape. Howe, whose profession stretched again to the Nineteen Twenties, emphasised mild and motion and dynamism.

Howe introduced these qualities, and plenty of others, to “Seconds,” which has the chiaroscuro of noir and a looking out digital camera whose actions, in essentially the most virtuosic sequences of the movie, evoke the sensation of a fever dream. Howe additionally makes use of a wide-angle lens to nice impact, deploying it for group close-ups that emphasize the inhumanity of the individuals in Hamilton’s new life. Different strategies, just like the skilled use of deep focus in a single significantly harrowing scene — the place Hamilton/Wilson is strapped to a mattress, surrounded by orderlies — serve to each advance the story and emphasize the extent to which it’s a nightmare.