One car rear ending another begins a storyline set over thirty-six hours that reveals how utterly connected a group of people’s lives are, even though they all seem to be extremely diverse. The movie Crash emphasizes the interconnectedness of these people that originally appear very different from one another. Preconceived notions of stereotypes prevent the characters from fully understanding how similar and connected they really are. The director, Paul Haggis, crafts the movie so that the characters, symbols, and even the scene transitions support the purpose that the film is trying to convey.
One way the film achieves it’s purpose is it’s usage of fluid transitions throughout the movie. These transitions connect scenes supporting the interconnectedness of all the characters within the movie. Towards the beginning of the movie there is a scene after Ludacris and Larenz Tate’s characters stole a vehicle. They are just driving on the road when the scene changes to a police car driving past a crime scene. Haggis uses a wipe transition because it is more fluid than just cutting to the next scene. He chooses to make the transition as effortless as possible to support his theme of interconnectedness.
Another time was when Matt Dillon’s character opens a door to go outside transitioning smoothly to a worker at the locksmith office finishing opening a door which ushers in the next scene. These fluid transitions between scenes backs the point that all the characters’ lives are connected as opposed to creating choppy and extreme changes in scenes which would only go to display the differences between the scenes. Additionally, the director manipulates music to aid in the fluid transitions. Music that starts playing in one scene continues to play on into the next scene.
Demonstrated near the end, when a song, called In the Deep, starts playing. All that can be heard is the song, any other noises are drowned out. Throughout the duration of this song the film touches on many of the characters. All of them seem to be deep in thought or each dealing with problems of their own, like destroying evidence or caring for a sick father. Haggis’ choice to use a common song throughout this section conveys the feeling that they are in fact analogous because of the song adding another connection between their storylines.
Transitions are not the only way Haggis adds connections, symbols are displayed throughout the movie as well. A major symbol, even inspiring the name, is the vehicles shown in the film. In the opening credits all that can be seen is blurred headlights. Each set of headlights is a separate car and since it is dark and blurred the differences in the cars go unnoticed as do the differences of the people themselves. All the cars are interconnected in that they are all driving on the same road at the same time. They are all together but separated by their vehicles. This represents the citizens that live together in Los Angeles.
However, the movie starts with a car crash. Now develops a conflict. Immediately stereotypes are thrown about as they blame each other for the accident, both drivers make assumptions about the other to explain what happened instead of actually understanding the other. The cars represent how they are all interconnected but how the“metal and glass” of their cars or assumptions and stereotypes of each other keep them isolated from understanding their similarities. Another symbol was the St. Christopher figurine that one of the carjackers, played by Larenz Tate, put on the dash of the stolen vehicle.
Later on towards the end of the movie, Tate’s character gets a ride from off-duty Officer Tom Hansen, played by Ryan Phillippe. As the two are talking Tate notices that Phillippe’s character has the same exact figurine on the dash of his car. Tate laughs at the similarity but the situation soon escalates due to Phillippe’s pre-existing suspicion of Tate’s character because he was black. Just as Tate moves to take his St. Christopher figurine out of his pocket to explain that he wasn’t making fun of him, Phillippe pulls out a gun and shoots Tate.
As Tate is dying his fingers open up and reveal what he was trying to show him, Phillippe realizes his mistake but knows it is too late. The figurine is a symbol of the similarities the characters share without even realizing it. Many times throughout the film the similarities are hidden with racial profiling preventing the characters from understanding each other. If Phillippe’s character hadn’t been so quick to condemn and shoot Tate, he would’ve seen the St. Christopher and understood that Tate was just trying to show him a connection. As the movie goes on the characters almost seem to contradict themselves as ore is revealed about each character.
This is exemplified by a police officer, played by Matt Dillon. It begins in a disturbing scene where Matt Dillon’s character sexually abuses a woman he pulls over. The scene makes his character dislikable. The same character also alienates a women working for his insurance company by being rude and racist, making his character even more disliked. Later on in the movie, however, the audience begins to see another side of the police officer. He is seen caring for his sick dad and even saving the life of the very person he abused earlier in the film.
Matt Dillon’s character isn’t the only one that seems to have more than one side. Terrence Howard, who plays a black movie director, reacts to the abusive officer’s mistreatment of his wife in a passive way, telling his wife to just do what they say. At another time Howard gets pulled over, hesitating, before angrily stepping out of the car. The police officers give him orders. He reacts by yelling at them, aggressively. The tension is evident as the camera shots switch back and quickly, almost in a jerky manner. This emphasizes the difference from earlier in the film when Howard tried to avoid conflict.
Haggis’ choice to expose the different sides of the characters adds another connection and understanding to the diverse characters. Many connections are formed between a group of diverse people throughout the movie. Paul Haggis utilizes other elements besides the characters, including symbols and transitions. His purpose is to emphasize the interconnectedness that is not realized in the beginning due to preconceived notions of stereotypes. The movie comes full circle ending the movie with another “crash” of seemingly different people.