The Talented Mr. Ripley (Film)

Class, Clothing and Landscape: A Deconstruction of The Talented Mr. Ripley College

Anthony Minghella’s 1999 film adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley, explores the issues and struggles associated with the quest to find one’s own identity. Minghella’s film employs a post-structuralist analysis, seeing Tom and the individual not as an independent being, but rather “a ‘dissolved’ or ‘constructed’ subject… [who is] really a product of social forces” (Barry 65). Tom’s notion of self is in constant flux throughout the story, and both the audience and the characters within the film “enter a universe of radical uncertainty” (Barry 61)—unable to discern Tom from Dickie as he moves back and forth between personas, never quite able to zero in on his true self. To deconstruct Tom’s identity and convey its continuous instability, Minghella utilizes Tom’s costuming and his desire to move from a position of low class to that of the wealthy elite while also highlighting the contrasting landscapes of New York and Italy.

In the film, Tom Ripley first appears sporting a Princeton jacket while playing classical music on the piano at a small upper-end party in New York City. Although the viewer is not yet aware that Tom has not attended Princeton, it is quickly made clear after he exits the party,...

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