Film Analysis: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

In Bonnie and Clyde (Penn, Warner Bros, 1967), the highly controversial and iconic ending sequence utilizes strategic camera position and mise en scene to portray violence and taboos that were becoming a popular phenomenon in the United States during the 1960s. Bonnie and Clyde tells the story of two notorious bank robbers during the 1930s. The film depicts the rise of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker and their ultimate demise when they were betrayed by Ivan Moss. This scene is considered to be one of the bloodiest death scenes in the history of cinematic.

The scene opens with a close up shot of Bonnie and Clyde driving in a car with Bonnie asking if it is Mr. Moss in the distance. The somewhat distant road implies that the long journey of the couple is finally nearing an end. We are then cut to a long shot of Ivan and his truck from Bonnie’s point of view for a brief few seconds before being cut back to a medium close up shot of Bonnie and Clyde for a split second. The camera then cuts to a medium shot of Ivan as he walks closer to Clyde’s car to signal him to stop. Another cut shows Ivan masking his true intention with a warm smile. We are then cut back to Clyde and Bonnie as she flashes back a smile.

The shot is then cut to the point of view of the car as it gears towards Ivan and veers to the right. The camera is then cut to a medium shot of the car as it comes to a stop. We are cut to a medium shot of Ivan as he walks to his lorry and waves Clyde to exit the car. Clyde exits the car and walks towards Ivan while chewing apple. At this point, the scene flashes from shot to shot between Ivan and Clyde as they each look in different directions and the suspense is fueling. A shot shows birds flying out of bushes and we are cut to a shot illustrating a car driving closer. Ivan goes prone under his lorry.

The tension keeps building as the camera cuts a shot of some bushes. This shot hints at an ominous surprise that is about to break loose. The camera flashes between shots of Clyde and Bonnie looking at each other in horror. We are cut to the bushes once again and the firing begins. The camera flashes back and forth between Bonnie and Clyde being shot at countless times and the law enforcement team shooting. Shots of the police are in normal speed while shots of Bonnie and Clyde being riddled with bullets are in slow-motion.

The slow-motion shots of Clyde depict his lifeless body being thumped with each bullet penetrating, vividly capturing the motion of his body slowly swinging around before hitting the ground and roll. Shots of Bonnie display her body falling out of the car halfway in full glorious details. The last shot shows the dead couple in a sunny and green setting. The shot looks almost too peaceful and calm for a tragic incident. “Peculiar” would be the most suitable term to describe this last shot. The scene is then abruptly cut to credits.

In a way, this scene can be perceived as one that glorifies crime for it depicts the downfall of the outlaws in an epic way. Furthermore, the film stresses the point that Bonnie and Clyde’s motif was largely due to fame and notoriety. During the time this film was released, America was entering the “New Hollywood” era and this film is arguably one of the first few films of that particular era. Perhaps the rise of popularity in youth’s choice is what fueled the ultra violence and taboos promoted in this film.

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