During the film Good Night, and Good Luck, George Clooney and Grant Heslov express their concern of fear through acting stylisations, authentic footage imbedded within the film and effective choice of music and lyrics. A secondary idea presented by Clooney and Heslov includes initiating a visual sensation of time and place for the audience, with the use of film noir and effective employment of set design. The era of McCarthyism encompassed fear and concern, the acting and characterizations in Good Night, and Good Luck effectively conveyed this idea.
The expression of the characters, in particular Ed Murrow, during the See It Now sequences, portrays expressions of grim anxiety. The dramatic acting in the film is abundant with prolonged eye contact and intense line delivery, combining the two to illuminate the fear of persecution and job loss. Furthermore, this is evident in the paranoid- filled dialogue in the scenes between Joe and Shirley Wershba as there is “a lot of pressure” upon their interaction, where their facial expressions are highlighted by close-up shots that position the audience to vividly depict their distress.
Throughout the film, Clooney and Heslov strive to add truth, in regards to the extent of McCarthyism and how the situation created hysteria and caused agitation for many subjects. The real footage utilised within the film, create an accurate portrayal of McCarthy and those accused of communism. The incorporated footage of McCarthy, conveys the authentic idea that he was powerful, loud and unsympathetic towards those whom of which were accused. This footage is then juxtaposed with the footage of Annie Moss’s questioning, which depicts Moss as innocent and an easy target for McCarthy as she is ‘coloured’.
Additionally, the environment surrounding the Moss trial can be seen as congested and a prime concern during that particular time. Not only can the real footage be seen as a primary source material but Clooney and Heslov used this technique as an opportunity to manipulate the audience to perceive McCarthy negatively and to assist the audience in comprehending the impact and distress simulated at that time. The music and lyrics projected throughout Good, Night and Good Luck adds to Clooney and Heslov’s concern of fear; this is presented through the use of Dianne Reeves jazz music, as a transition and mood setter.
At the very beginning of the film, the sound of the 1958 banquet is silenced as the jazz music is played over the event. Reeve’s is often used as an audio cue for the viewer to enhance the current atmosphere; which is usually one of suspense and tension as often portrayed by the CBS employees. After Murrow’s criticism over the Rudlovich case is aired, the sound cuts out and Reeves is featured again singing “I’ve got my eye on you, so beware”. In regards to this event, it is an obvious reference to the fact that if the government and advertisers were not watching before, they certainly would be now.
Also, these particular lyrics affix to Clooney and Heslov’s concern that people must be ‘aware’, as they may be targeted by McCarthy, another component of panic being verified in the film. The music and lyrics not only gives the audience an understanding of time and place but also provides cues as to where the story is transitioning; therefore, creating suspension and unease, conveying the characters feelings for the audience. In Good Night, and Good Luck , Clooney and Heslov efficaciously created an ambience of time and place to transport the audience to the McCarthy era, to create a sense of naturalism and nostalgia for viewers.
The film exhibits a bold sense of style exemplified by Robert Elswit’s elegant black and white cinematography; authorising the filmmakers to highlight particular scenes, such as the close ups of Murrow with a dark background and highlighted face. The technique employed, positions and forces the audience to convert their attention towards the issues and concerns as presented through the dialogue. Also, the approach to avail this particular camera shot may have been chosen to highlight the duality of good and evil as Murrow’s face is constantly highlighted throughout the See It Now sequences.
Therefore, illustrating the idea towards the audience that Murrow is doing ‘good’ by presenting the truth. Additionally, the selection of shooting the film in black and white creates a sense of realism. The concept of ‘film noir’ and black and white television was heavily present throughout the McCarthy era. Therefore, by presenting the film in black and white a sensation of fluency is adjacent with the historical black and white footage also utilised within the film.
The choice made by Clooney and Heslov to apply this filmic device, positions the audience to see the film as truthful as it centres around historical footage from the McCarthy era applied within the motion picture. Furthermore, Clooney and Heslov generate an understanding of the atmosphere and time and place through the choice of stylisation and construction of the set design deployed in the film. The purpose of this filmic technique, allows for an array of different scenes; some spacious environments allowed for a lot of actors to fit into the one area; this is demonstrated when the CBS team gather ideas and discuss the Annie Moss trial.
Consequently, creating a frenetic and loud aura; this renders the idea that the era of McCarthy would have been at an unsettling tone at times. This abstraction is juxtaposed with scenes of less noise and hustle; such as scenes between Joe and Shirley that occur in more intimate environments, which paves a way for moments of tenseness and traction. Conclusively, the construction and choice to film in specific environments and sets allows the audience to apprehend the surroundings, which are affected by the characters emotions at that particular time and pace.