Despite Ferris, Sloane and Cameron’s fun and carefree adventure, a scene shows one of them having a deep moment of reflection.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a classic John Hughes movie, but despite the carefree plot, one scene actually makes a lot of sense. Hughes’ teen films are infamous and praised for their ability to treat teens and the adolescence experience with the utmost respect. Ferris Bueller in particular stands out among his teen films for its uniqueness, almost incomparable to any other film.
Ferris BuellerThe premise is simple; three friends (Ferris, Cameron and Sloane) drop out of school to have a day of adventures in Chicago. In the core, Ferris Bueller emphasizes the motto that life is too short, with the titular character Ferris (played by Matthew Broderick) fully embodying it. He forces his less confident, anxious friend, Cameron, out of bed to join in his shenanigans, which Cameron reluctantly agrees to. The trio explores the Chicago Art Institute and the scene is a sight to behold. It combines the art of filming with paintings and sculptures from the greats, including Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” and Jackson Pollock’s “Greyed Rainbow”, among many others. The trio explore the works of the museum, go on a school trip and admire the paintings in a light-hearted, irritating way, but one particular painting catches Cameron’s attention and becomes very important to him in John Hughes’ film.
Cameron focuses intensely on Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”, with tears in his eyes. The subjects of the painting are all turned away from him, except for a girl in the middle who is looking straight at him. This distinction sets her apart from everyone else, which is why Cameron focuses on her and identifies with her. He sees himself in her reflection; an outsider, a stranger, someone else. It is suggested that Cameron has spent most of his life passive, meek and fearful, afraid to take his place in the world, but Seurat’s painting stirred something in him. The child in the painting dares to stand out, something Cameron never actually did. This emotionally charged moment highlights the depths of John Hughes’ film, as well as the inner turmoil of the seemingly carefree stars.
John Hughes’ films focus on the ever-relevant topic of growing up, meaning they age remarkably well (apart from Sixteen candles,) which is the case for Ferris Bueller† Cameron’s deepest feelings relate to the universal topics of feeling lost and insecure about himself, as revealed later in the film when he shares his concerns with Sloane about ”School, parents, the future” He compares this to Ferris, who he thinks ”can do everything† In the comment for Ferris BuellerHughes says about Cameron and the painting, ”the closer he looks at the child, the less he sees,” as the face becomes less of a face and disintegrates into pointillist dots. Director John Hughes uses the painting to personify Cameron’s fear of never really being seen because of his passivity.
Seurat’s painting is largely interpreted as a commentary on Parisian class and wealth, which is also related to Cameron’s character. When Ferris tries to take his father’s Ferrari, Cameron urges him not to, saying that he ”loves this car more than life itself.” This idea of Cameron’s father placing materialistic items above love for his own son ties in with Seurat’s critique of the upper class in his painting. The fact that the little girl Cameron stares at is also with her mother, hand in hand, blends the art with Cameron’s real-life experience with his unloving parents. Ferris BuellerThe film’s soundtrack, here, uses a cover of The Smith’s “Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” to play out the painting scene, further signaling the relationship Cameron wished he had with his parents, but which he never got.
by the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day OffAfter all the shenanigans, Cameron regains his confidence. When the Ferrari is destroyed, Cameron is confident enough to take the heat from his father and eventually stand up to him. The conclusion of his story is a culmination of the events of the day, in which he has learned not to face life with such fearful uncertainty. The profound effect of Seurat’s painting apparently played a key role in this transformation.
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