Food in movies: A deep dive into a cool glass of milk
Food is often used symbolically in movies. Here we have some examples on how they do it
While watching a movie, we probably don't remember if a character asked for Whiskey or Gin, or if he even drank anything at all. But if someone asks for a glass of milk, we instantly notice it. It's not considered the same way as any other beverage like water, coffee or soda. Milk is usually related to innocence and purity. It symbolizes maternity, or life itself. However, if it's an adult drinking a glass of milk on screen, it can cause a mix of emotions.
Milk can be used to enhance a character's immaturity or youth:
Catch Me if You Can - Steven Spielberg
Here we have Leonardo Di Caprio in "Catch Me if You Can". In this scene, Frank Abangale (Di Caprio) is posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot. When the stewardess asks if he wants something to drink, he answers: "Milk?", going out of character for a second showing vulnerability and revealing his true age.
Rebel Without a Cause - Nicholas Ray
We can see a similar example of milk highlighting a character's youth in "Rebel Without a Cause". We see James Dean as Jim Stark, a teenager having a hard time figuring out how to become a man.
Clockwork Orange - Stanley Kubrick
In Stanley Kubrick's "Clockwork Orange" (and also the novel by the same name), the main characters drink milk, (filled with drugs, yes) but it's milk; making clear that even after all the horrific crimes this gang perpetrates, they're still kids. We don't see any adults in the movie choosing this drink. It's only the teenagers who choose to drink something so innocent and comforting as milk, to prepare for the crimes they're about to commit.
There are some films where milk causes an unsettling effect:
Inglorious Basterds - Quentin Tarantino
In the opening scene of Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds", we see SS Colonel Hans Landa asking a fresh glass of the farmer's milk, and drinking it happily in one chug. Declaring his power, and conquering any bit of purity or innocence remainin, this scene makes us feel uncomfortable and prepares us for what it's clearly going to happen.
Mad Max: Fury Road - George Miller
In George Miller's "Mad Max: Fury Road", we see Immortan Joe, the main antagonist, drinking milk too. He is the lord of The Citadel and the leader of the War Boys. They all drink breast milk gathered from female humans to preserve their strength and health. Watching all these adults drinking breast milk tells us there are many things wrong with this new post-apocalyptic world.
No Country for Old Men
In "No Country for Old Men" by The Coen Brothers. Anton Chigurh, a hired murderer, enters a house without permission and grabs a bottle of milk from the fridge before sitting on the sofa staring blankly at his reflection on the TV. This creates tension for the audience, seeing this dangerous man in a peaceful environment where he's not supposed to be. But later on, we see a similar scene, now, with the sheriff drinking the milk. In this case, we feel safe, he has control of the situation. With each scene we get completely different feelings comparing hero and antagonist.
Léon: The Professional
And for one last example, and probably the most memorable character who likes to drink milk, we have Léon , from "Léon: The Professional". He's a deadly assassin, and it's kind of ironic someone this dangerous would go home to drink a glass of milk. This gives us some hints about his true personality, and that there's more beyond the hitman. He takes care of Mathilda, an orphan child, and milk is part of this paternal relationship. Milk also represents a connection between both of the characters: Mathilda, a child that acts and dresses beyond her age, and Léon, who finds joy in the simplest things, and is, in many ways more immature than her.