Death Becomes Her - The face in the bottle
August 30, 2009 5:44 AM   Subscribe

To anyone who has seen "Death Becomes Her", did you notice the face in the bottle of magic potion?

I was just watching "Death Becomes Her" on TV and am at the scene where Meryl Streep has just paid for the youth potion and is about to take it. Just as she raises the bottle to her lips, before she actually drinks it, I see a mans face and shoulders rise within the bottle, turn around and then disappear. Its been a while since I've seen the film, it may be explained why this happens later, but did anyone else notice that?
posted by Spamfactor to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have looked at the scene on YouTube (see it here) and can't quite see what you describe. The sFX people have used some swirling effects to make the potion look less mundane and more cinematic which could be leading to a case of Pareidolia.
posted by wannalol at 7:24 AM on August 30, 2009

Response by poster: Yes I see what you mean, it's virtually imperceptible in that clip. I watched the film on a large screen in HD and I guarantee it is not a case of Pareidolia. I paused and rewound the scene several times and it is extremely clear that I can see a mans face. Even the clothes he's wearing on the shoulders. Have a look at the clip again, the exact moment you see the face is 9:21 I think. I can see why you think I'm imagining it, the resolution isn't high enough to differentiate between the face and the general swirling in the bottle, but on an HD screen it really is.
posted by Spamfactor at 7:52 AM on August 30, 2009

Seconding pareidolia... I watched the video linked by wannalol a few times with the intention of finding a face, and I eventually saw a rounded shape with three darker spots under it which could look like the top of a head and a face. Screencap here, it's around 9:21 in the clip.
posted by illenion at 7:55 AM on August 30, 2009

Response by poster: I definitely see from that screencap why you think I'm imagining it. I must seem like one of those people who thinks they can see the Virgin Mary's face in a grilled cheese sandwich. I think that may be the face I'm talking about but honestly when I look at the HD version of the film on my TV I am not simply assigning human features to random swirls of light. I can see an incredibly detailed face, like a photograph. If anyone has access to a high definition version of the film maybe they can see it too. I also realise I sound like an HD TV salesman at this point, but it's driving me mental.
posted by Spamfactor at 8:08 AM on August 30, 2009

I can see an incredibly detailed face, like a photograph.

That's how pareidolia works, of course - once you've convinced yourself that it's there, you're just not going to listen to people that don't see the same thing (just look at how defensive you are in this thread).
posted by effbot at 8:19 AM on August 30, 2009

Response by poster: Oh sorry didn't realise it was coming off as so defensive. Ok the more people tell me I'm imagining it the more I should accept it could simply be a trick of the mind. The film comes on again later today and I'll feel compelled to watch it again and see if I see the face. It's so weird though, I don't usually imagine stuff like this.I know I've said this way too much (why I must seem defensive) but it just looked so damn clear and undeniably there.
posted by Spamfactor at 8:26 AM on August 30, 2009

I did not feel you were being defensive in tone either but instead very good-humoured in your replies. I will withhold further judgement until I see a HD screencap as it could be an in-joke by the film-makers like the Easter Eggs programmers leave in software. I can see an alien like face in the low res screen capture illenion links to and heck I am even seeing it in the poster for the movie too. Help! What have you started Spamfactor? :-)
posted by wannalol at 8:36 AM on August 30, 2009

Response by poster: Ha, sorry for dragging you down the same road. I'm sitting here trying to think of what to say to explain the face better. I think I can actually see the face you mean in the picture of the poster you linked to (it's got a triangular head and looks like it's smiling). However it still looks cartoonish and I have no problem writing it off as a coincidence, or an incidence of this pareidolia (have to look up how to spell that every time) phenomenon. It doesn't have they photographic realism of the face I see in the actual film (which I admit may be the result of an optical illusion). It did cross my mind that one of the FX guys may have placed the face there as an Easter Egg like you said. Hopefully that's the answer and I'm not just being stupid.
posted by Spamfactor at 8:50 AM on August 30, 2009

Well, it could still be something added to the animation on purpose -- the movie did win an Oscar for visual effects, after all -- but to me, it looks like a standard CG fluid effect, and that's entirely random and unpredictive, and more than capable of coming up with patterns that trigger pareidolia.

(And given how the human vision system is optimized for face detection, I'd be more inclined to believe that there really was something in there if you'd seen something else :-)

If you really want to dig further, see if you can find issue 52 of the Cinefex magazine somewhere.
posted by effbot at 8:50 AM on August 30, 2009

Just to clarify Spamfactor, I saw the "face" at 9:21 before I saw you had mentioned that timestamp, which indicates there is indeed something at that point facelike enough that it would trigger recognition in both of us. I can't speak to whether it is intentional or just a coincidence, though. Also, I didn't read your responses as defensive either.
posted by illenion at 8:59 AM on August 30, 2009

Response by poster: It is pretty interesting how we've evolved to detect faces and recognize voice patterns in things even when they aren't really there. There's even a really good TED talk on the subject here. There is certainly a vague, facelike image in the youtube clip that could trigger this kind of thing, it's just a shame you guys don't have immediate access to the same quality version I saw. I think I'll record the film later tonight, then show my family the scene without telling them to look for a face. If they don't immediately see what I'm talking about, I'll just write it off as (looking up spelling again) pareidolia.
posted by Spamfactor at 9:07 AM on August 30, 2009

there is indeed something at that point facelike enough

You mean the masked guy on her scarf? :-)
posted by effbot at 9:10 AM on August 30, 2009

Ok, I went and looked at a DVD quality version of that segment, frame by frame, and while there are a few frames where you don't have to work that hard to see a face, I see no sign of that being done on purpose. I see no signs identifiable clothing, nor do I see the face turning away -- the splotches forming the eye and nose/mouth shadows just dissolve into the "smoke" in the next few frames.

Oh sorry didn't realise it was coming off as so defensive.

Well, things like "I guarantee it is not a case of Pareidolia" doesn't really leave much room for differing opinions, does it? :-)

(fwiw, I've worked with computer graphics and image processing for more than 20 years, including over a decade of remote sensing work, and could probably have filled more than one hard disk with cloud fragments that "look like something" for arbitrary values of "something"...)
posted by effbot at 11:29 AM on August 30, 2009

Response by poster: Damn I'm not about to help things at all. Just looked at the scene again. From what you've said I have to conclude that the version I am watching has been remastered in some way and effects put in. From the way you're so sure I know there's nothing I can say that will make you believe I'm not imagining it but the version I watched actually has several instances of human figures which have been placed in. Most notably a women who is seen turning, wearing as dress and raising her left arm and the man I mentioned. The fact it is now very obvious to me and the fact you can't see anything but vaguely human shaped blurs makes me think these effects may have been placed in a later edition of the film. I realise the more specific I try to be the more ridiculous it sounds, but I've had other people look now and it isn't even up for discussion as to whether we are imagining it or not, the images have simply been placed in by a special effects team.
posted by Spamfactor at 12:51 PM on August 30, 2009

What source are you using? DVD, Blueray, something else?
posted by effbot at 1:00 PM on August 30, 2009

Response by poster: I'm in the UK watching it on Sky Movies HD on a Sony Bravia TV. The source resolution isn't as high as a Blu-Ray but it is still HD and allows me to see in fairly high detail whatever effects have been used for the potion. I actually just watched the youtube clip and can see a very faint outline of the human figures I'm talking about (so faint I never would have noticed anything if I didn't know what I was looking for) but any internet clip of the scene won't show you a high enough resolution image to see the figures. To prove absolutely to myself I wasn't insane I told my sister to keep her eye on the potion and tell me what she sees. I didn't tell her what to look for (not humans or faces or anything) so she wouldn't be influenced. She described exactly what I've described. She even seemed confused when I told her there has been debate about it, the images were so obvious. Now that I'm no longer working on memory and can see the scene in front of me it seems slightly silly to be arguing over it. I wouldn't have needed any clarification had I taken such a close look the first time round.
posted by Spamfactor at 1:15 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Spamfactor, I've just recorded and viewed this scene from the same source. And you're not alone.

I can clearly see both the dancing figures (sort of like the credits from Tales of the Unexpected) and the man's face. I'd go so far to say that its an clip of Arnold Schwarzenegger, taken from Terminator 2.
posted by handybitesize at 2:49 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

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