Paranoia has the ability to play with an audience. A quote from the movie Blue Collar (1978) defines paranoia, “All you got’s a buncha shit.” There are moments of suspense in films that set the tone for a thrill ride. This is because paranoia allows viewers to reflect on similar situations (from movies) in their own lives. There are different types of paranoia in the following three movies I have chosen. They are financial paranoia from Blue Collar, media paranoia from The Parallax View (1974), and society paranoia from The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973). All of these films have a variety of elements that immerse viewers into a cinematic experience that is haunting due to paranoia, yet enticing.
The financial paranoia in Blue Collar is thought provoking. It features three men in a union who are concerned about their income to support their families. Also, they believe they are not receiving the benefits of working in the union. The viewers see the paranoia in the main characters. They are Smokey (played by Yaphet Kotto), Zeke (played by Richard Pryor), and Jerry (played by Harvey Keitel). These three men come together to work out a plan of stealing money from the union. The issue is that their judgment can impact them in the long run. As the camera does numerous close-ups of these characters’ facial expressions and frustrations (these happen in the moments of intense conversation), viewers will realize that the paranoia is not going to calm down. Based on the decisions these characters want to make, the film shifts to become even darker in terms of paranoia.
Paranoia is like a landscape in these movies that provides a background that often worsens during the film. These films do well with this concept because all of them contain a conspiracy or a major event that causes many unanswered questions and aggravation. Blue Collar had many of those elements, and the next two films that will be elaborated upon will have them as well. As the main character in The Parallax View goes deep into a story regarding a senator’s assassination, paranoia of Joseph Frady (played by Warren Beatty who is the main character) becomes extremely complex.
For Frady, his life is on the line as the media and people believe what he is writing is a lie. This causes a huge conspiracy that ends up in negative headlines and puts tons of stress on Frady. His paranoia leads to reacting violently at moments. As he falls into an uncomfortable and unexpected fight with a sheriff, viewers sense Frady’s distressed paranoia as he asks the sheriff, “You wouldn’t be offended if I call the police, would you?” He asks that question because he is in a state where he feels no one can be trusted. Given Frady is putting himself in trouble with the media, he cannot be trusted either. Therefore, the authorities and Frady are even on bad terms. As the movie has silent moments, and drifts along with Frady’s agony of the media’s representation, the film illustrates real-life paranoia in real-life situations. The Director does this quite well to an extent where the serious matters are just purely engaging for the audience.
After exploring the first two types of paranoia, I feel there is a sense of art to paranoia in movies. As I watched both Blue Collar and The Parallax View, I realized the issues that the characters have upon them are real-life problems that people challenge everyday. The positive aspect of that (in terms of entertainment) is that it creates tension that may make viewers feel nervous as they watch the movies. When that happens, the situations become worse, and viewers feel they are taken into the world of paranoia as part of these cinematic sensations. As the lighting darkens frequently in these films, that is the sign that there is climax arising. The climax comes slowly but surely.
Finally, there is The Friends of Eddie Coyle: a suspenseful mafia movie with very little, but intense violence. The main character is Eddie Coyle (played by Robert Mitchum), a man who is under lots of stress. He has a feeling he is going to have to do some time behind bars because of his involvement with the mafia. To hopefully prevent his sentence, he decides to rat out the other criminals he worked with. This judgment for Coyle leaves him with society paranoia, because he is extremely stressed and has times where he drinks to relieve his stress. As the camera glances on him at a bar drinking, his face is faded with distress. This creates a dramatic tone for viewers and the film since there is lots of drama involved and Coyle’s life is on the line.
Paranoia in cinema is an art. Blue Collar, The Parallax View, and The Friends of Eddie Coyle all focus on scenarios that are serious and realistic. The different types of paranoia are shown in different ways, but they all compare in how they affect the main characters of these three films. As their paranoia gets out of hand, viewers will be embraced into the journey through cinema of the negative impact of paranoia.