The Pressure of Objects: Clutter and Class in Rian Johnson’s Knives Out (2019)

  • Scott Szeljack Youngstown State University


This essay explores the visual language of Rian Johnson’s Knives Out (2019), critically examining Johnson’s use of clutter and sparsity in the spaces occupied by Harlan Thornberry (Christopher Plummer) and Marta (Ana de Armas) to argue the occupied visual space of the film parallels its class divide. This analysis explores Johnson’s use of clutter as a visual tension within the film, most prominently in the scene which plays out between Marta and Fran in the laundromat, where the stark lighting and extreme sparsity are visually unique in a film that otherwise litters its internal spaces with an excess of clutter. Careful analysis of the mise-en-scène of these objects reveals a consistent attitude towards class divide, a theme supported more broadly in the text of the film itself.