“The eyes are windows to the soul”. I don’t think any film has exemplified this adage quite as well as Mad Max: Fury Road, or at least not any of the films I’ve watched.
If you’ve watched Fury Road, you might have realized that interspersing the wild, fanatical, barbaric action sequences are close-ups of the characters’ eyes. The camera usually lingers before them for a few good seconds before plunging you back into the surrounding chaos. And in those few seconds, we are able to learn a great deal, not only of the characters’ emotions and motives, but also of the story.
For instance, in the earlier part of the film, as Furiosa was driving the war-rig towards Gas Town, we see her oscillating her gaze between the side-mirror and the front. Then we are shown a point of flash coming from the citadel and another from the Gas Town. Beyond these pieces of pictorial information, we are told nothing – nothing that might make clear the plot of the story. But had we looked closely into Furiosa’s eyes and we would’ve seen a certain intent, even anxiety; as if she were waiting for something. The suspense tickles us; everything unusually tranquil. Soon we realize that she wasn’t waiting for a secret signal from some hidden allies, or for a fortuitous shift in winds, or for the truck to collect sufficient distance from the Citadel; she was waiting for both clans to remove their eyes from the road. That is, once they have stopped signalling to each other through the flashing. Only then could she steer off the designated path without having the clans notice it immediately. It was the best chance at going unnoticed, or if not so fortunate, then at least getting a head-start.
There were many other instances in which the eyes told of the character’s disposition. Right after Immortan Joe climbed over the collapsed passage-way in his vehicle and accelerated towards the camera, we catch a glimpse of his eyes: full of swirling vengeance and determination. Yet another was the hope in Furiosa’s eyes as she met with the Vuvalini (and quick moments later, anguish). There was also Max, who, as Furiosa was dying, looked imploringly at her, his eyes zipping around worriedly, which culminated in him revealing his name to her.
So while the myriad other films are busy explaining to the audience what exactly is happening or what thoughts are running through the characters’ minds, be they through those all too cliche monologues or all too conspicuous clues, Fury Road communicates it through imagery and subtleties. It gives us a puzzle and lets us solve it for ourselves; it employs the richness of the human eye and the powers of human empathy to tell a story.