The Talented Mr. Ripley (Film)

The Talented Mr. Ripley (Film) Imagery

Lush natural imagery

The film focuses on Italy's beauty through numerous shots of exquisite beaches and landscapes. Camera filters portray the scenes through a golden light, emphasizing the serene blue of the ocean. Over-the-shoulder shots illustrate the beautiful view that Tom observes from balconies and train windows. These shots emphasize the wealth and prosperity of the characters, as well as Tom's great love and admiration for Dickie's life of luxury.

Claustrophobic interior imagery

In contrast to the evocative images of the outside world in Italy, the interior of Tom's squalid New York flat is claustrophobic. The walls are painted a sterile white, and closeups of scratched walls and fraying carpets emphasize the dilapidated state of his apartment. This stark contrast to Dickie's world illustrates that Tom does not share Dickie's wealthy background, and is greatly envious. The claustrophobic interior furthermore represents Tom's feelings of entrapment and desire for escape, for a different life. The "basement" is also Tom's metaphor for the place where he keeps events of the past, when he tells Peter, "Don't you just take the past and put it in a room in the basement, and lock the door and never go in there? That's what I do."

Ladders and Height

The film has numerous shots of ladders and of settings from great heights. The film begins on the rooftop of an apartment overlooking Central Park, which represents the access to elite wealth in New York City into which Tom has insinuated himself. An image of ladders and height can also be seen when Tom first leaves his apartment, as well as when Tom and Dickie climb the stairs towards their luxurious house in Italy. Ladders are a significant symbol in the film, as they represent ascension, in particular, Tom's rise from low-brow to high-brow culture.

Additionally, Tom is often shown looking down at people from above. At the house in Mongibello, Tom eavesdrops on Marge and Dickie from a balcony. In Rome, Tom watches Meredith, Marge and Peter interact from above, and in the stairwell of his apartment, Tom watches Freddie interact with his landlady from several flights up. Tom's ability to see the effects of his deceptions are highlighted by his often having a bird's eye view on proceedings.

Expensive cars

Panning shots of period cars from the 1950s contribute to the realistic post-war setting of the movie. In the film, there is a great emphasis on expensive cars, such as limousines, painted in bright, highly visible colors. The cars represent luxury and wealth, attributes that are central to the film. The cars also represent conspicuous consumption, that is, purchasing expensive items in order to impress others.

Statues of the Madonna

Throughout the film are numerous statues of the Madonna, the mother of Jesus. This is most prominent during the Italian Festival of the Madonna, where a slow-motion panning shot shows the statue rise from the water, its gaze fixed heavenward. These images form a large part of the religious overtones of the film. Religion is a key theme of the play, as it parallels the emphasis on human flaws and violence. It is at the Festival of the Madonna that Silvana kills herself, and we know that she was pregnant with Dickie's child at the time of her death. Her premarital indiscretion contrasts with the codified moral hierarchy of the Catholic church and the reverence for the chaste and virginal Madonna figure.


Costuming represents the class distinctions in the movie. Tom Ripley wears a simple button-down shirt, indicative of his working-class background. By contrast, Dickie Greenleaf wears stylish and sophisticated coats and expensive jackets. When Tom begins to merge his identity with Dickie after having murdered him, he begins wearing fancier clothes. This is made most evident when Freddie looks quizzically at Tom's slippers at the apartment in Rome. The slippers are much fancier than anything Tom has worn previously and represent his high aspirations.

Glasses are also an important aspect of costuming. Tom's glasses represent his social awkwardness and stratification from high society, as they are clumsy and suggest studiousness rather than ease. They also represent his detachment from the events of the movie, and his status as a voyeur. When Tom pretends to be Dickie he is seen without glasses, as indeed he has merged with the upper classes and is no longer an outsider. In this way, Tom's glasses become an image which signifies to the viewer Tom's confused jockeying between the two identities and his fluid relationship to the performance of class and privilege.

Mirrors and Reflections

Mirrors appear throughout the film, and serve to connect Tom with his inner life and with the consequences of his actions. When Dickie finds Tom dancing around in his clothes in Mongibello, Tom has been singing admiringly to his own reflection in an assortment of mirrors. Uninhibited and playful, Tom looks at his reflection and for the first time seems proud of his image, and the mirrors reflect back to him the realization of his deepest desires. Later, ashamed of having been found out, Tom hides behind a full length mirror which frames Dickie's reflection, his head popping out over the top. A mirror literally merges the bodies of Tom and Dickie in this moment.

Another moment in which a mirror is featured is when Tom sneaks a glance at Dickie's naked body after Dickie gets out of the bath. Tom can only confront his sexual desire for Dickie through the mediation of a mirror. Then again, on the train to San Remo, while Dickie is asleep, Tom looks at his and Dickie's reflection in the window. The reflection gives the illusion of their merging once again, and Tom is fascinated by the image. While Tom is staring into the mirror image directly, Dickie is in profile, creating a strong identification between the two figures.

Later on, after having been questioned by the police about Freddie's death, Tom thinks he sees Dickie's reflection in a wall of mirrors while riding down a narrow street on a Vespa. This hallucination is the first moment of reflection or inward remorse we see from Tom, as the surprise of it causes him to fall off his Vespa. His conscience and the ethical and emotional consequences of his murder come back to haunt him through the reflection of the mirrors.