The Weight of a Long-Term Relationship and Upstream Color
Shane Carruth's Upstream Color is nothing short of a masterpiece. It's a dense film with a lot to talk about. Instead of unpacking the whole film, let's get into one sequence and see how it comments on long-term relationships.
There's a lot in this barely three minute clip, so I'm just going to get into it.
Throughout the sequence, Jeff and Kris (Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz, respectively) are having the same conversation over and over again. At first it starts off as something playful but towards the ends of the sequence, Jeff and Kris seem like they're at each other's throats.
We also see a lot of close-ups of their hands and their intimate moments. These moments showcase Carruth's visual language. There is a tactile nature to these scenes and Carruth emphasizes this with his close-ups. Visually, we can see how close Kris and Jeff have become throughout the sequence.
Aside from the close-ups, Carruth's rapid editing also signifies the passing of time. By cross-cutting back and forth, it gives the audience the idea that each scene is taking place during a different time in their relationship. The rapid nature of the cuts also add to the tension that builds within the sequence of scenes.
Putting both of these things together gives us an idea of where the sequence is going to end before it actually ends.
But what does all of this together mean?
It's commentary on long-term relationships as a whole. The main argument the two characters have are about the stories they tell each other. After a while, each of their stories start bleeding into each other (there's a perfectly good science fiction explanation for this in the whole film but we're just dissecting this sequence).
And doesn't that happen after dating someone for more than six months? Think about your relationship/last relationship. The beginning -- sometimes called the honeymoon period -- you're constantly sharing stories about you and your life. You describe the way you've grown into the person you've become. You talk about the things you've done on your own.
But after a while, that disappears. Your life becomes the life you have with your significant other. Your stories become the same. You take turns telling the same jokes at parties. You, essentially, become one being in the same way Jeff and Kris did in this sequence.