The Talented Mr. Ripley (Film)

The Talented Mr. Ripley (Film) Essay Questions

  1. 1

    In what ways is Tom Ripley an anti-hero or a non-typical protagonist?

    Most explicitly, Tom is an anti-hero because of the immoral acts he commits such as murder, theft, and fraud. However, the film wants the audience to take a more empathetic perspective on his plight, and depicts him as a tortured soul who is just looking for acceptance. Tom approaches his job of persuading Dickie to come back to America rather innocently, even though he lied to Mr. Greenleaf by withholding the fact that he did not actually go to Princeton. When his attention to and affection for Dickie and Dickie's lifestyle grows, however, Tom's desire to stay in the lap of luxury complicates his innocence. After he loses control of his temper and commits the fateful murder of Dickie, he chooses to continue his con rather than submit himself to the consequences of his actions. Aligned with Tom's plight, the audience becomes anxious about his fate, in spite of knowing that he is a morally corrupt and cold-blooded killer.

  2. 2

    What effect does doubling have in the narrative?

    Doubling occurs throughout the movie in various ways. The central doubling occurs between Tom and Dickie, as Tom attempts to become Dickie after his murder. The merging of the two is at the heart of Tom's fractured moral compass. He begins to dress in his clothes and even represents himself as Dickie to the police. Additionally, Meredith and Marge are doubles for one another, and when Tom as Dickie tells Meredith he cannot love her, he cites her similarities to his "ex-girlfriend" Marge as his reasoning. The doubling of the plot highlights Tom's loose grip on identity and authenticity. To Tom, people are interchangeable, and thus can be mistreated without consequence.

  3. 3

    What does the film have to say about social class?

    The film suggests that while social class is often an arbitrary or aesthetic distinction, its effects on people have marked consequences. Tom's ability to inhabit the social circles of the elite and the wealthy, and even to fool a number of people into believing he is Dickie Greenleaf, illustrates how social distinctions are permeable and based in appearances. However, the class distinction between Tom and the wealthy characters of the movie creates a rift between them, causing him to feel not only deep pain and self-contempt, but also a murderous detachment. Wealth is depicted as affording a higher quality of life to its recipients, but also a tremendous amount of alienation, as we see in Dickie.

  4. 4

    What cinematic devices increase the suspense of the film?

    First of all, our alignment with Tom and the way he is shot—often over the shoulder or in intimate closeup—aligns us with his plight and increases the suspense of his situation. When Marge confronts Tom, we see Tom's face in closeup, and the camera pans between the two to heighten the effect of their face-off. Additionally, the score provides an often uncanny and unsettling underscoring for the more disturbing events of the film, foreshadowing violence, or providing a dissonance with the action. Furthermore, violence in the film is often abrupt and unexpected, such as when Tom first hits Dickie with the oar, when Tom attacks Freddie with the statue from behind the door, and when Tom emerges from the bathroom as Marge tries to escape his apartment.

  5. 5

    What does the metaphor of the basement mean?

    The "basement" represents all of the unsavory elements of Tom's past that he wants to keep hidden from the world. It is left ambiguous whether the "basement" is a metaphor for the shame we all share, or a particular metaphor for the particularly grisly skeletons in Tom's closet. The basement contains all of his demons and his remorse for the horrible crimes he has committed. Rather than live with the consequences of his actions in real time, Tom compartmentalizes his shame, and this is what the basement represents. The presence and affection Peter offers Tom marks the first moment in which Tom considers giving "the key" to someone and allowing them access to the more shameful and intimate parts of him. However, in the end, Tom realizes he will have to stay in the basement alone, and kills Peter.