NarrationThe dominant mode of narration in Blowup is third-person external narration (See: Narration in Film). The story is presented from outside the story-world. The film always stays outside of the characters. There are no Mind-flashes or forms of first-person narration such as flashbacks.
However, the camera does take on an active narrative role at certain key points. The camera becomes the story-teller in part of the analysis of the first blow-ups sequence. It takes an active role in reconstructing the meaning of the event. Then the camera turns the blow-ups into a film of stills accompanied with sound. By means of cutting and camera movement, it constructs a coherent narrative of the murder. It isn't just the camera presenting the Photographer's pov shots--simulating his perceptions. The camera becomes an independent actor. The camera also narrates at the end, when it actively follows the imaginary ball that the mimes hit. It moves from simply showing the scene in a impersonal way, into participating in the game of the mimes, following the imaginary ball.
PlotThe plot is the photographer's gradual discovery that his photos of a couple in the park turn out to be a murder of which he is the only witness. The plot is a classic one: An initiation story in which the Photographer moves from ignorance to knowledge.
SettingThe setting is London in the 60's. The glitzy world of a fashion photographer. A high-style studio. Idlyllic garden of Eden park. Upper Class pot-party. Rock concert.
- The Photographer.
The photographer is the central character. He controls the world through his camera. Manipulates all the high-class models. Distances and controls the world with his camera. We see it in the scenes with the models. He also does voyeuristic photography--takes covert shots of derilects in the flop-house.
In the park he takes photos of what he thinks is a love scene. But through examining the blow-ups he discovers that he's captured a murder. He tries to tell his friends what he's seen, but discovers that he's unable to communicate his knowledge to anyone. Ron is caught in his own life--doesn't listen and can't understand. Patricia can't understand the only blow-up left because it is highly abstract. At the end the Photographer comes to the realization of his own isolation--his total inability to communicate his experience. The blow-up sucks him into confrontation with his existential condition of aloneness. He changes in that he moves from being distanced to becoming involved, from ignorance to knowledge.
Patricia seems to have feelings for the Photographer. She's unhappy in ways that she can't articulate. The scene in the studio with the Photographer about the murder is a subtle treatment of the inability of people to communicate. She wants help from him, but can't say what the problem is. He tries to explain the murder but she can't understand. They want to communicate to each other, but can't. They're left in their own isolation.
Ron is his friend with whom he can't communicate. In the key scene at the pot party, Ron is high and can't hear or understand.
- The Woman in the park.
She is based directly on the woman in Cortazar's story. She has lured the man into the park in order to be killed. In the scene with the Photographer in his studio, she seems for a moment to connect with the Photographer. But the moment is interrupted--the connection fails.
- The blow-ups.
The blow-ups reveal the truth of what happened that the Photographer did not see with his eyes. The key blow-up symbol is the one that is so abstracted that one can't tell it's an image of a body. This blow-up gains its symbolic meaning by being related to Bill's abstact painting. The Blow-up becomes a symbol of the inability to communicate.
- The protest sign, the propeller and the guitar. These are things that the Photographer gets involved with, but are simply distractions. They don't mean anything in particular in themselves, but fit into the pattern of distraction that includes the sex with the two girls, the pot party and the mime's tennis game. They all fit into a pattern of distraction that characterizes his life.
- Bill's painting.
Bill's abstract painting, which has no overt meaning, appears for a second time in the room when Bill and Patricia are making love and the Photographer comes to tell what he's seen. Like the painting, the photographer doesn't communicate. And then the painting is clearly related to the abstract blow-up that can't communicate that it's a photo of a murdered man.
LanguageThe film is minimalist in terms of communication through language. In fact one of its points is to demonstrate the non-communication of language. The characters simply can't make contact with each other through language. Speech is an evasion and not a vehicle of communication. The major scenes between the Photographer and Patricia, the woman and Ron are scenes of the failure of communication.
Though the dialogue is minimal, it is heavy with symbolic statement. There are a number of thematic statements made in cryptic or ironic speeches throughout the film. Bill's comment about the painting meaning nothing till later and then figuring it out. The Photographer's statement to the Woman: "Nothing like a little disaster for sorting things out." The Photographer's statement to Ron in the restaurant:"I wish I had a ton of money and then I'd be free." The dialogue between the Photographer and the Woman, the Photographer and Patricia about the blow-up, between Ron and the Photographer at the pot party.
ThemeThe film explores the isolation and the inability to communicate that characterizes the lives of the characters. The Photographer is initiated into the knowledge of his own aloneness and the discovery of his inability to communicate.
The Photographer's had an overwhelming experience--he's been a detective and discovered a murder and seen the body. But he discovers that he is unable to communicate the experience to anyone else. He's left with the knowledge of the murder, whcih no one else can share. The blow-ups reveal the truth of the murder to him, but the final blow-up reveals, through its inability to communicate its content, his isolation.
The Photographer's life has been distancing of himself from others and a manipulation of others by means of his camera. He's been a voyeur. When the blow-ups suck him into the reality of a murder in which he touches the body of the dead man, he discovers that he can't communicate this experience to anyone. Neither Ron, nor Patricia, nor anyone else can understand or share his experience. The film ends with him falling back into his unsual pattern of distraction by getting involved in the imaginary tennis game. However, as he watches and hears the sound of the ball, he reflects on his own isolation.
The film conveys his isolation by focusing on his reaction-shots. We infer his negative thoughts at the end by the look of anguish on his face. The cut to the extreme long shot of him as a small, isolated figure in the middle of the field, communicates to the audience his final aloneness.