Rain on film
June 22, 2020 5:52 PM   Subscribe

Whenever rain is depicted in a film, it's a downpour. Right? I've seen a thousand scenes in movies that take place during a gullywhumper, but I don't know if I've seen any that show a milder type that in the real world makes up 90% or so of rainfalls. Know of any scenes in movies that depict a mist, a drizzle, perhaps a "wintry mix"? Fill me in below, please! I'm not formally researching this; I'm just curious about what seems to be a consistent misrepresentation of weather in film.
posted by Mechitar to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Akira Kurosawa has a lot of varieties of rain in his movies - I don't have an immediate example but I guarantee he has what you want. Here's a video essay from Every Frame A Painting and an essay from BFI on Kurosawa films and the weather for starters.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:58 PM on June 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

Not a movie. But the older seasons of Law and Order have a lot of scenes where it’s raining or drizzling but not to the extent it’s a downpour
posted by katypickle at 5:58 PM on June 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

“Regular” rain, while falling, just doesn’t show up on video very well. You can easily shoot in a drizzle and have it seem like just an overcast, other than droplets on the lens or ripples in a puddle. So there’s a general need to make weather heavier.
posted by sixswitch at 6:15 PM on June 22, 2020 [23 favorites]

The two that come to mind are the "Twilight" films (the first one) and "Clouds of Sils Maria".

Both of these are from memory, so I have not gone back to check and it's possible my memory is wrong.

In "Twilight", the rain may be more pronounced than what you are looking for. In "Clouds of Sils Maria", there may only be mist and clouds, I can't remember if it accompanied by rain as well.
posted by seesom at 6:55 PM on June 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Typically in film the use of rain (or falling water in general) is very deliberate. It's either to set the scene/mood (rainy London, a reason to be stuck indoors, a dark and stormy night, etc) or it's symbolic and represents a cleansing or rebirth or renewal, etc. A drizzle is just too subtle.
posted by simplethings at 6:55 PM on June 22, 2020

Good stuff, guys!

I've thought of a couple of answers to my own question. One kind of obscure, the other not obscure at all.

The obscure one is "Lathe of Heaven" (2002), which has a section that takes place in a future timeline where it rains all the time. Heavy rain, but not a downpour, if I remember correctly.

That got me thinking about a much more famous sci-fi film, "Blade Runner". It too depicts a future where it rains constantly. Again, it's heavy rain, but not a downpour, usually. Except for the famous scene at the end, which featured a downpour big time.
posted by Mechitar at 7:12 PM on June 22, 2020

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg has a few different grades of rain, although from the lo-rez videos I just watched you can mostly tell by how many umbrellas are on screen.
posted by hydrophonic at 7:26 PM on June 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Curtis Hanson's Wonder Boys comes to mind immediately mostly because I always felt like it portrayed Pittsburgh's rainy, slushy wintery mix better than any other film.
posted by octothorpe at 7:51 PM on June 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Goonies take place on a chilly, overcast, drizzly day, which I assume is the norm for Astoria, Oregon.
posted by condour75 at 8:54 PM on June 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

Alan Rudolph's Trouble In Mind from 1985 takes place in an alt.Seattle called Rain City, where it's not always raining.
posted by Rash at 9:45 PM on June 22, 2020

The Killing (the US version) takes place in Seattle, and costars Seattle weather.
posted by Grandysaur at 10:24 PM on June 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Just to be a pain in the ass:

I don't think what you're describing is a "misrepresentation" at all. In most cases, in fiction films, the state of the weather is meant to represent the emotional state of the character(s) in some way. Call it artistic license. Films are not obligated to depict weather (or anything) in a "realistic" way. (And don't even get me started on how loaded and imprecise is the term "realism.")

The exception that proves this rule most gloriously is the title number from SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. The downpour offers ironic contrast to the character's elation.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:54 PM on June 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

It's been a while since I've seen it but I'm pretty sure Stalker has a lot of fog and drizzle, although it also has heavier rain scenes too.
posted by phoenixy at 2:28 AM on June 23, 2020

One of the (very many) words that Scots have for describing rain is "Smirr". This refers to the kind of light rain that does not seem like much - perhaps not enough to carry an umbrella - but which has the cumulative effect of gradually soaking anybody who spends time in it. This kind of rain is probably common enough around temperate climates of the world - but it is very tricky to catch that sort of effect either visually or dramatically on film. Difficult because the camera can't see it, difficult because it correlates with "bad light" shooting conditions and difficult because the effects it has are not obvious or rapid to take effect.
posted by rongorongo at 5:14 AM on June 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

The Rains of Ranchipur? It's been years since I've watched it, but it rains. A lot. Good movie.
posted by james33 at 5:55 AM on June 23, 2020

As a tangent to rain, I have wondered why streets are almost always wet. Especially in car scenes.

I spoke one time with a lady who was running the gift shop at one of the covered bridges where "The Bridges of Madison County" was filmed. She was there for the filming. She said that, in the rain scene towards the end, where Meryl Streep's character was in the truck with her husband, that the "rain" was from a firetruck. They added milk to the water to make it film better.
posted by jtexman1 at 6:11 AM on June 23, 2020

The Killing (the US version) takes place in Seattle, and costars Seattle weather.

I was going to mention The Killing too, as it features every different kind of rain. The story is terrible and the end is ridiculous, but the weather is cool.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:06 AM on June 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Rain / wet / greyness / storms of various sizes feature in Bela Tarr's work -- notably Satantango and The Turin Horse.
posted by dobbs at 10:18 AM on June 23, 2020

As a tangent to rain, I have wondered why streets are almost always wet. Especially in car scenes.

Wet streets reflect light rather than absorbing it which makes filming the scene physically easier. It also provides contrast in low light conditions between the road and everything else (sidewalk, cars, buildings etc.)
posted by Mitheral at 10:22 AM on June 23, 2020

Not a film, but our household has been watching a lot of Death in Paradise. It's a light murder mystery show set on a fictional Caribbean island. Ever since reading this question, I now notice a couple times a season that they have some "incidental rain" where it happens to be raining on or behind the characters for a scene, but it's not relevant to the plot and no one mentions it, and it's gone by the next scene.
posted by Lirp at 7:45 PM on January 19

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