Singin' in the Rain:
liminal structure

The liminal, as Turner has so comprehensively described, is always a tripartite structure that marks a significant change in status. The liminal is quite specifically the moment 'between' the before and after of the event, and is, at it were, outside of the security of these more stable definitions. The liminal then always attracts strict codes or rituals of behaviour and procedure in an effort to demarcate the significance of the event and to 'protect' all participants from the dangers of the interstitial.

OUTSIDEINSIDEOUTSIDE
silent cinemamusictalking cinema
not loversdance partnerslovers
'real' world'film' world'real' world
laddersong and danceladder
songdancesong


Liminal spaces in the "You Were Meant for Me" sequence

In the "You Were Meant for Me" sequence this marginal or border status is cinema's position between the silent and yet to be singing cinema, and so constructs the soundstage as a place within and without the cinematic world, ostensibly showing but simultaneously concealing its constituting terms.

Kathy is the film neophyte, the film extra who by film's end is a popular star, and so is the body (and voice) that a cinematic transformation will be performed upon.

Prior to the sequence the cinema is not quite a musical cinema and Don is not yet a musical star (indeed, he remains a star of the silent screen who is about to be rocked by his difficulty and awkardness with sound). However after this sequence the film introduces us to the elocution lessons, clearly indicating that the cinema is now a 'speaking' cinema, though not yet musical.

Similarly Don and Kathy enter the soundstage as would be, and want-to-be lovers, but it is up to Don to persuade her of the honourability of his intentions, and in the process demonstrating the authority and legitimacy of what Singin' in the Rain actually is - a musical. Hence from this sequence on it is clear that they are now lovers, and Lina (and her voice) become the impediment to their possible futures.

Within the diegetic world of the film the before and after of "You Were Meant for Me" is suspended during the sequence so that its key 'effects'appear to be declared by the film, but in fact remain outside of the 'realism' of the image. This is contrasted to the diegetically motivated sound and effects prior to their entering the soundstage (see the exemplary analysis of this, and Singin' in the Rain, by Chumo) and the more 'usual' nondiegetic music of "Moses' supposes".

Finally, within the soundstage sequence itself, there is the use of the major prop (the ladder) and the song as framing terms around key transitional events of the sequence.

Created in 1998 by Adrian Miles, details, republished 2006.