Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Cactus (1986)

A video which normally appears on this page did not load because the Flash plug-in was not found on your computer. You can download and install the free Flash plug-in then view the video. Or you can view the same video as a downloadable MP4 file without installing the Flash plug-in.

Email a link to this page
To:
CC:
Subject:
Body:
clip 'It has to be removed' education content clip 1

Original classification rating: M. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

After she recovers from the car accident, an eye specialist tells Colo (Isabelle Huppert) that her left eye must be surgically removed if she is to retain any sight. She refuses the choice. At home, she contemplates the horror of losing an eye.

Curator’s notes

A large part of the film’s success, and its appeal, is built on Isabelle Huppert’s face, which Cox shows in a series of breathtakingly beautiful close-ups. The beauty of Huppert’s eyes accentuates the dilemma for the audience, and Cox underlines that direct emotional connection by having her stare directly at us – as in the final moments of this scene, which is followed by a cross fade to a field of sunflowers. The flowers are probably a reference to one of Cox’s most enduring inspirations – the painting of Vincent Van Gogh, about whom he has also a made a film (Vincent, 1987). There’s a kind of visual rhyme being made between Huppert’s eyes – an inspiration to many film-makers – and the heads of sunflowers, which resemble open eyes – an inspiration to Van Gogh.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows the inner turmoil felt by Colo (Isabelle Huppert) after learning that she may lose her sight unless she has an urgent operation. Instantly rebuffing the ultimatum from her eye specialist (Sean Scully) to have her left eye removed or to lose her sight completely, Colo returns to a house in the countryside to grapple with her decision. Colo’s despair is captured through the use of slow camera movement, lighting cues and symbolic imagery.

Educational value points

  • The use of one long unbroken shot on Colo in the doctor’s office focuses attention on Colo’s dilemma – the sacrifice of one eye to save her sight. As Colo is given an ultimatum by the doctor, the camera, in one slow movement and without any cuts, moves via a gradual zoom-in from a two-shot (two people in one frame) to a close-up of her face. The close-up shifts the focus from the rationale of the medical solution to her inner anguish and confusion.
  • At the end of the clip Colo unexpectedly looks out of frame and into the camera, implicating the viewer in her plight. Her direct address breaks the objective distanced view of her torment provided by the fixed camera, which had been tracking her almost dispassionately. The challenging device of direct address is used to draw the viewer into an emotional and psychological bond with Colo.
  • Colo’s torment is viscerally captured by a combination of lighting, performance and staging. In the scene in the house, Isabelle Huppert’s quietly intense emotional expression and gestures, along with her determined stride to the window and back, expresses the loss that Colo faces and her extreme anguish. In the scene she is cast in shadow, but light is reflected onto her eyes, further focusing the viewer’s attention on her plight.
  • In the house scene the amplification of sounds as Colo contemplates her choice creates tension and anticipates the blindness that could await her. The sounds in this scene, such as the call of birds, Colo’s feet scuffing the floor and the opening of the door, are amplified beyond normal audible levels, approximating the heightened aural awareness of a blind person. This use of sound subliminally informs the viewer what is at stake for her.
  • At the end of the clip, Colo’s eyes are superimposed over a field of sunflowers as part of a transitional fade – in film, the technique of layering images directly over each other can be used to visually connect two seemingly unrelated images. In this clip, the device invites the viewer to see through Colo’s eyes and to understand what she stands to lose.
  • In the final shot of the sunflowers, the camera’s movement and the colouring and lighting of the image create a sense of idealised place and time. The brightly lit saturated greens and yellows of the sunflowers and the unsteady hand-held camera combine to approximate the feel of an old home movie or a distant memory seen through longing eyes.

Colo is sitting with an eye specialist in his surgery.
Eye specialist The tablets and drops are helping but you can see that the vision’s not good anymore. The left eye must be removed. There’s no alternative, I’m afraid.
Colo fidgets with her cardigan as the doctor gets up to retrieve a file.
Colo And the right eye?
Eye specialist At best, the vision will be poor.
Colo What do you mean? What do you mean, ‘poor’?
Eye specialist Difficult to be sure at this stage. The very least you can expect is to be able to see doorways, large pieces of furniture, be able to tell that there’s somebody there without being able to see who it is.
Colo Hmm. And if I don’t have my left eye removed? What if I keep it? What happens then?
Eye specialist I’d expect the vision to grow worse, much worse.
There is a long pause in the conversation. Colo looks away.
Colo But I don’t understand – completely blind?
Eye specialist Yes, more or less. We don’t have much time. It has to be removed.
There is another long pause in the conversation. Colo looks down, shakes her head, holds her fingers to her lips and whispers something in French.
Colo I don’t want to.

We hear dramatic music and the sound of birds over a view of the sun setting. Colo is pacing back and forth in a room with old framed pictures on the wall. She walks into an adjoining room, looks out the window for a few seconds and then returns to the other room. She rocks back and forth, putting her hand up to her head and in her mouth. She wipes her face which is wet with tears.

We see a field of sunflowers.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer 'It has to be removed' from the feature film Cactus as a high quality video download.

To play the downloadable video, you need QuickTime 7.0, VLC, or similar.

You must read and agree to the following terms and conditions before downloading the clip:

australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

This clip is available in the following configurations:

File nameSizeQualitySuitability
cactus1_pr.mp4 Large: 22.1MB High Optimised for full-screen display on a fast computer.
cactus1_bb.mp4 Medium: 10.4MB Medium Can be displayed full screen. Also suitable for video iPods.

Right-click on the links above to download video files to your computer.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer this clip in an embeddable format for personal or non-commercial educational use in full form on your own website or your own blog.

You must read and agree to the following terms and conditions before embedding the clip:

australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

Copy and paste the following code into your own web page to embed this clip: