“The Big Lebowski” Scene Analysis (Film and Social Issues Class, 2014)

Obviously, this is my own interpretation of the scene. It is not perfect, some words might be wrong and some sentences might sound weird, but keep in mind that English is not my first language. There might be some spoilers, I guess.

FILM TITLE: The Big Lebowski17

YEAR: 1998

DIRECTORS: Joel and Ethan Cohen

SCENE TITLE: The Dude meets Maude

IN TIME: 42:40

OUT TIME: 46:35

Narrative Description 

It’s dark. There is a stain of some fluid on the floor. We hear the elevator’s doors and the Dude walks in the room. He sees the stain on the floor and wonders what it is. He looks up. There are weird chanting sounds.

On the floor at the end of the room is a big painting of a woman’s body, illuminated by spotlights. On the wall is another big painting of a pair of scissors. The Dude walks towards the painting on the floor. When he is right in front of it, there is a weird sound coming from behind him. He turns around. It is Maude, coming in “flying”. She is attached to the ceiling by a harness. The Dude screams and bends his knees, to get out of the way. Maude splatters paint on the canvas. The Dude straightens up and two men in denim overalls bring Maude to the floor. Maude tells the Dude that she’ll be there in a minute. Maude takes off the harness and one of the denim-wearing guys brings her a green robe that he helps her put on.

Maude walks towards the Dude. The painting is between them. She asks him if women’s bodies make him uncomfortable. She tells him that her art has been described as “vaginal” and uncomfortable for some men. The Dude obviously doesn’t know what to say and he looks confused. She tells him how some men are uncomfortable when women talk about their sexuality, even though they always talk about their own. The Dude is very confused.

Maude walks around the painting and to the bar, where she dries her hand with a towel. She tells the dude about the rug and why she took it back from him. She hands him the towel for him to clean his face and she walks to the other side of the room, where the television is. She tells the Dude about Bunny and how she doesn’t like her. The Dude tries to come back to the rug, but Maude doesn’t listen. She takes the remote and asks the Dude if he likes sex. The Dude answers by saying that he came here to talk about the rug. Maude says that men think feminists don’t like sex, but that this is a lie. She starts talking about nymphomaniacs and how Bunny is one. The Dude goes back to the bar to pour himself a drink, once again trying to get back to why he came here in the first place. Maude ignores him and turns on the television.

On the television is a pornographic movie. We see a man in a car. The Dude says he knows him, that he is a Nihilist. The introduction of the movie goes on and Bunny’s name appears on the screen. The Dude starts pouring his drink and looks at the movie, wondering what this is all about. The movie goes on until Maude turns off the television.

Cinematic Devises 

  • Close-up on the stain on the floor
  • Non-diegetic sound: chanting
  • The light comes from the back and fades to darkness in the front
  • The Dude walks in, blocking the light, he is backlit
  • Crane shot from the Dude’s feet to his face
  • Medium shot on the Dude
  • Cut to extreme-long shot of the corridor, the painting of the woman’s body is straight in the middle of the shot.
  • Slow dolly towards the painting
  • Long shot of the Dude, walking towards the camera
  • Cut to the painting
  • Dolly-in towards the painting
  • Medium shot of the Dude, still walking, until the shot becomes a medium close-up
  • Long-shot of the painting, dolly-in ending
  • Medium close-up on the Dude, he starts to turn around
  • Diegetic sound: a “boom” and Maude’s harness/pulley system
  • Medium shot of the Dude, half-turned around
  • Dolly-in towards the Dude
  • Long shot of the corridor, from where the Dude arrived. Maude “flying”/splattering paint.
  • Cut to medium close-up on the Dude
  • Dolly-in towards the Dude, The Dude bends his knees, getting out of the frame, dolly-in towards the painting
  • Cut to medium close-up of Maude’s body, quickly “flying” through the frame
  • Close-up of the painting, green paint falling over it
  • Long shot, Maude is in the air, two men in denim overalls walk into the frame
  • Long shot of the Dude
  • Long shot, the two men in denim overalls bring Maude back to the ground
  • Long shot of the Dude
  • Long shot of Maude, taking off the harness and putting on the green robe.
  • Long shot of the Dude
  • Slow dolly-in towards the Dude, who is walking towards the camera
  • Cut to long shot of Maude
  • Dolly-in towards Maude
  • Cut to the Dude, medium shot, dolly-in
  • Cut to Maude, medium close-up, dolly in
  • The chanting fades and stops
  • Dolly-in ends, medium close-up on Maude
  • Cut to medium close-up on the Dude
  • Cut to medium close-up on Maude
  • Cut to medium close-up on the Dude
  • Cut to medium close-up on Maude
  • Cut to medium long shot of Maude, walking to the bar.
  • The camera follows her as the moves, tracking shot.
  • The shot becomes a close-up. Depth of field: he Dude is in the background, but the focus is on Maude
  • Cut to medium close-up of Maude
  • Cut to over-the-shoulder shot, medium close-up. The Dude faces the camera and we see Maude’s back
  • Maude walks out of the frame, medium shot of the Dude
  • Dolly-in towards the Dude, until the shot becomes a medium close-up
  • Cut to medium long shot of Maude, her back to the camera, walking towards shelves.
  • Long shot of Maude as she takes the remote
  • Cut to medium long shot of the Dude, walking towards the camera until it becomes a medium shot
  • Cut to over-the-shoulder shot (over the Dude’s shoulder)/long shot of Maude walking towards the Dude, until the shot becomes an over-the-shoulder, medium shot
  • Cut to over-the-shoulder, medium shot of the Dude
  • Cut to over-the-shoulder, medium shot of Maude
  • Cut to over-the-shoulder, medium shot of the Dude
  • Cut to over-the-shoulder, medium shot of Maude
  • Cut to over-the-shoulder, medium shot of the Dude
  • Cut to over-the-shoulder, medium shot of Maude
  • Maude starts walking away from the Dude, her back at the camera, the shot becomes a medium shot
  • Cut to a medium close-up of the Dude until he walks off of the frame
  • Cut to medium close-up of the Dude, his back at the camera, walking to the bar
  • Dolly-in as the Dude walks
  • Medium close-up of the Dude
  • Cut to medium shot of Maude and the television and she turns it on
  • Cut to medium close-up of the Dude
  • Cut to medium close-up on the television
  • Cut to medium close-up on the Dude
  • Cut to medium close-up on the television
  • Cut to medium close-up of the Dude
  • Cut to medium close-up of the television
  • Cut to medium shot of Maude and the television
  • Cut to medium close-up of the Dude
  • Cut to medium shot of Maude and the television
  • Cut to medium close-up of the Dude

Analysis and Interpretation

Many elements in the scene could foreshadow the sexual relationship that will occur between The Dude and Maude. For example, as the Dude walks in, the stain of paint is right between his legs. This easily remind us of semen. The chanting in the background can also be foreshadowing of the sexual relationship because in some ways, it sounds like one. There is also the painting of the woman on the floor, which can remind us of a woman in a bed.

When Maude is talking about how some men are uncomfortable when women are comfortable with their sexuality, she mentions that some of them refer to their penis as their “Johnson”. This fact catches the Dude’s attention. Alongside the painting of a pair of scissors hanging on the wall, it is also foreshadowing. Later on in the movie, the Dude gets threaten that his “Johnson” will be cut off. He even has a dream that three men holding giant pairs of scissors are chasing him.

The scene could also be perceived as some kind of a prey versus predator sequence. It is as if the Dude, the prey, is defenselessly entering the cave of the predator, Maude. The spotlights at the end of the corridor can remind us of eyes, as if the predator was waiting, watching. Later on in the movie, Maude and the Dude have sex, but Maude actually tricked him. She reveals that she only wanted to have sex with him so that she would become pregnant. Just like a predator tricks its prey. Another related element is when Maude arrives in the room, splattering painting everywhere. Some paint lands on the Dude’s face, just as if she was marking her territory. Animals do it all the time, by peeing, but Maude’s “trade-mark” is her art, so she marks her territory with paint. Plus, as the Dude enters the room, the only lightning is behind him, on the ground, in an arrow shape pointing at the door. The lights are literally pointing the exit of the room, just as if they were warning the Dude that this was a trap.

I think that another element that could somewhat foreshadow how Maude wants to trick him is the fact that she first appears naked, but puts on a robe. By appearing naked, it is as if she was pure and ready to expose all of herself to the Dude. But, when she puts on the robe, it is as if she covers herself, hiding her true motives. This might be far-fetched, but the robe could be representing how she did not tell to the Dude that she only wanted to sleep with him to get pregnant.

I believe that Maude is a strong female character and that she is there to represent the feminist movement that is always somewhat present in our society. It is very obvious that Maude is a feminist, but she is not a stereotypical one, which is very important because it proves that stereotypes are not necessarily true.

Maude’s painting looks similar to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. I believe this is an important element as it could represent that women and men should be seen as equals. Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man is seen as one of the most beautiful anatomical studies of the human male, but there is nothing as “important” as this for the human female. I believe that with this subtle allusion to Da Vinci, the Cohen brothers are trying to make us understand that the male anatomy is not the only important, relevant one; female anatomy should be studied and understood as well.

There is also some kind of a “role-reversal” in this scene. In many movies, we see powerful men who are assisted by women figures, often mute and only present to make men look more powerful. Here, we have Maude, a powerful woman, who is assisted by men. I believe this could be a criticism of how women in movies are not well represented; they are often represented more as object than humans. I am sure that many men felt uncomfortable watching this scene because of the roles of the guys in the denim overalls. They only are in the scene to make Maude look more powerful. Also, they do not speak once; they pretty much are like objects.

Another important element is how the Dude does not really care about anything but his rug. He just wants to have his rug back and go back to his normal, bowling-playing life. I believe this can represent how people, from the 90’s to nowadays, often don’t want to get involved in “important” things. The 90’s were the beginning of this “era of indifference”. Nothing mattered much and nobody cared much either. As it is said in the movie, the Dude really is a man of his time; he does not care, he just wants to keep on living and not be bothered.

When Maude shows the pornographic movie opening to the Dude, he claims that he knows one of the guys and says that he is a Nihilist. In the 90’s, the Nihilists were a group of people who claimed that they believed in nothing, which brings us back to the “era of indifference”.

There is also a shot, when Maude is showing the movie, in which we see Maude looking at the television, while a girl in the movie is walking shirtless. I believe this is a strong scene as it shows just how much women are objectified in the media (the pornographic movie), but also that women are not objects, but real people too (Maude). I believe that putting a strong female character in front of an objectified one is a good way to represent the problem.

When we see Maude, dressed, for the first time, she is in front of rectangular windows. Square and sharp forms are often associated to men, as round forms are associated to women. I believe that in this scene, the squares behind her represent that she has equal power to men. I believe that once again, it is a subtle way to show that men and women should be seen as equals and that no stereotypes should define us.

The sound of Maude’s harness and pulley system sounds like some raven’s call. Ravens are symbols of power, creativity and fear, three things that Maude can represent. Power because as I said before, she is a powerful woman, creativity because she obviously is an artist, and fear because men who don’t like feminists are probably afraid, or intimidated by her.

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