Before you ask, yes, the name Ophelia being associated with drowning is clearly a reference to Hamlet, and where might this take place, you might ask? None other than Double Fine’s 2009 ode to metal music, Brutal Legend.
The game features Jack Black as the lead, and several hilarious moments. However, that didn’t stop Tim Schafer, the game’s director and writer, from adding somber moments. Such as the drowning of Ophelia. To appropriately discuss the scene, it feels appropriate to show the video. The following video I almost didn’t select, as it has no sound, but after some deliberation, I felt that the lack of sound made it easier to judge the scene solely on the visual elements of it.
Starting with the opening scene, and looking at it without the context of the game itself, we see Ophelia walking into a dark and ominous cave. The lights above her are fuzzy and covered by the fog. Her walk is that of someone with no reason left to live—solemn and resigned. This creates a very somber and almost creepy atmosphere.
Next, we get to see the mouth of some unusual and foreboding cave, followed by a very meaningful shot of Ophelia entering the cave. The reason this scene is so full of meaning, is that she is walking out of the light and into a darkened area. The cave she is entering is home to something called the Sea of Black Tears, which is said to call to those who are full of sorrow. Sorrow is often depicted as darkness. The few lights we see are heavily melted candles which add to the grimness in their resemblance to funeral candles.
As she walks, Ophelia refuses to look up, and almost always has her eyes closed, until she jumps into the Sea itself. Once she is submerged, she clearly realizes that she does not want to be there and that she must escape. However, shortly after she is pulled down by inky black tentacles as the screen fades into black.
Immediately after the fade, the scene cuts to an overview of the water, which pans up to a coalescing darkness on the water’s surface. At the top of this is a woman, who is revealed to be Ophelia, now twisted by the waters of the Sea of Black Tears. This does a great job of adding tension as Ophelia’s fate is revealed.
The use of dark colors and low lighting helps to create a somber tone, and the use of cool colors on Ophelia’s twisted form denote her new role as, essentially, a lich in a world of metal. The glowing of her eyes and the darkness lifting her up are both used to give her a paranormal feeling, while her still human form give her the feeling of something mundane but wrong. Her aesthetic and the means by which she gets there are meant to give the player a sense of unease as well as a touch of guilt for being unable to intervene in her fate.
Now, it would be a disservice if we didn’t discuss the audio that is meant to accompany the scene.
The song accompanied with the scene is, as stated in the title of the video, Mister Crowley by Ozzy Osbourne. The lyrics we hear pertain to Mr. Crowley apparently leading a tragic life and eventually succumbing to the call of a charming and corruptive force, Satan. Much the same as Ophelia did within the game, thereby comparing her to this man ‘Mr. Crowley’ from Ozzy Osbourne’s song. The fact that the song begins when Ophelia first hits the water is denotative of the fact that this was Ophelia’s transition from ally to enemy, thus fulfilling her role as Shapeshifter.