Peeling Layers of an Onion
by Hien Le
A glass onion is something that is “densely layered but the center is in plain sight,” and also the namesake for the 2022 mystery film by Rian Johnson. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery puts a twist on the classic whodunit mystery, akin to the game of Clue, as the audience follows along the movie to figure out the mystery alongside the characters within the movie. Food in this film is used to distract the characters and also the audience from the truth of what is happening.
Johnson lays everything out clearly from the beginning; it is up to the audience, and characters, to catch on to the little details to see the truth. Similar to an onion, layers of a mystery are traditionally “peeled” back towards the end to reveal the truth, but Johnson’s twist is laying it all clearly from the beginning like a “glass onion.” In a broader sense, “a glass onion” has come to represent something that is complex and multifaceted, with many layers that can be peeled away to reveal deeper meanings or the truth. With the truth behind this whole mystery is Miles Bron, a narcissistic tech billionaire, who is always at the center of everything in the film.
As Helen and Blanc peel back the layers of this “onion,” the truth stares at them the whole time—Bron has always been at the center of it. Starting from the beginning, Johnson showed the audience who the glass onion was truly connected to, with his island residence having a structure that clearly resembles an onion entirely made out of glass (Figure 1). Then murders were rudimentary, as if they were committed by a bumbling idiot, from Bron clearly switching glasses with Duke to trigger his deathly pineapple allergy (Figure 2) to driving away from Andi’s home after he kills her in his incredibly recognizable car, his “baby blue.” With Duke’s death, all Bron did was switch their cups, so his spectacle of him saying someone must have poisoned him, it only takes one careful look to see that Bron just handed Duke his glass filled with pineapple juice. Then with Andi’s death, he was seen driving away from the scene of the crime in his ever-so recognizable “baby blue,” and Bron thought he was scot-free from being connected with the crime due to his arrogance.
Using other elements of the film, from props to the framing of scenes, Johnson clearly created a smokescreen to prevent the audience from seeing the “truth” until he decided it was time for the truth to be revealed. The characters, along with the audience, have been, essentially, gaslit into not believing what was presented right in front of their eyes. Leading to the title of “glass onion,” because even without the layers peeled back, the truth was always right at the center of everything.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Dir. Rian Johnson Perf. Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monae. Netflix, 2022 Streaming.