As I’ve mentioned before, eyes and the act of seeing play a huge part in Spielberg films. He uses this theme in four key shots from War of the Worlds, which utilise holes in glass (a representation of the eye) to highlight Ray Ferrier’s transformation from selfish man to good father.
The first scene comes early in the film, when Ray is playing catch with his son Robbie. The game becomes heated and Ray eventually throws the ball so hard that Robbie intentionally avoids it, meaning it flies through the window, breaking the glass. Spielberg then cuts to a shot of Ray, framed within the hole in the glass. The shot highlights Ray’s isolation from his kids.
The next scene comes later in the film, when Ray, Robbie and daughter Rachel encounter a crowd of people. The trio are in a car, and eventually the crowd attempts to wrestle it off them. One member of the mob throws a rock through the window screen, creating a hole that another tries to tear open. We see this happening through the hole from inside the car. This shot highlights the mounting threat and Ray’s acknowledgement of his need to protect his kids.
The final scene comes towards the end of the film, when Ray has done away with the insane Ogilvy but lost Rachel. He searches desperately for his daughter, but only attracts the attentions of a tripod. He hides in a car, which the tripod attacks, creating another hole in glass.
Spielberg uses two ‘hole’ shots in this scene. In the first, the camera is positioned outside the car, looking in at Ray, whose concerned face is framed within the hole. In the second, we move inside the car to Ray’s point of view as he sees the imperiled Rachel framed inside the hole.
These two shots highlight Ray’s new-found focus on Rachel. The man who once framed himself in a hole, is now framing his daughter in one instead. By paying attention to her, by seeing her through the substitute eyes Spielberg gives him, he finally realises and accepts his responsibility to her.