Ripley: Why Doesn’t Inspector Ravini Recognise Tom Ripley?

Image Credit: Philippe Antonello/Netflix

In Netflix’s ‘Ripley,’ Andrew Scott plays the role of the con man who will go to any lengths to get what he has set his mind on. He is sent to Italy to bring back Dickie Greenleaf, but he takes a completely different trajectory which puts blood on his hands. Try as he might to hide it, his lies start to catch up when the cops start looking into the murder of one of Dickie’s friends. They interview Tom, who impersonates Dickie, but later, the same police officer interviews Tom again, this time as Tom Ripley. One would think that the cop would catch Ripley in the act, but things don’t go down as one would expect. Ripley is far cleverer than imagined.

Ripley Uses Caravaggio’s Technique to Hide in Plain Sight

Some people are not good with faces. They have to have a few interactions with people to really look at their faces and commit it to their memory. While for the general public, it doesn’t feel like something that would hinder their daily life or their work, in the case of a police detective, it is too big of a mistake to make, especially when you have to catch the culprit, and he is sitting right in front of your face, and you still can’t see him! Considering what happens in ‘Ripley,’ one could call Inspector Ravini to be a bit lax at his job, but then, one must also consider the fact that Tom Ripley isn’t your everyday criminal. He is aware of people’s blind spots and has perfected the art of using it to his favor. This is what he does with Inspector Ravini as well.

Image Credit: Lorenzo Sisti/NETFLIX

The problem occurs when Tom goes back to being Tom Ripley and has to meet the Inspector again. By this time, Tom had already met Ravini a couple of times as Dickie Greenleaf, so meeting him as Tom Ripley would ruin everything. But because he is cornered and has no other option, he comes up with a plan. Tom knows that the only reason Ravini is coming to meet Tom Ripley is to ensure that the latter is still alive. Before this, Ravini thought Dickie Greenleaf had killed Tom Ripley. So, all the inspector wants is to make sure that Tom Ripley is still alive, and once that’s done, he’ll move on, maybe even leave Dickie Greenleaf alone.

From experience, Tom also knows that the inspector would be so preoccupied with confirming the details and trying to find out more about Dickie that he wouldn’t pay as much attention to Tom’s face. So, the more obscure it is to see his face, the easier it would be to get away with appearing in front of Ravini. A well-lit room is key to seeing things clearly, so the first thing Tom does is to darken the room. He pulls down all the curtains, which are quite heavy and stops almost all the light from coming through the windows. Then, instead of light bulbs, he lights up the room with candles so that he has the crutch of shadows to keep himself hidden. In the end, he puts on a disguise that doesn’t come off as too unnatural to be noticed. Hair is one of the first things that a person notices, so Tom gets a proper wig and a beard that is enough to hide his face but not too much to draw attention towards him.

As impossible as it might seem in the beginning, the plan actually works. The lack of light, no clear view of Tom’s face, and the obscurity provided by the fake hair added to Ravini’s primary intention to confirm Ripley’s existence rather than to confirm what he looks like, creates a cumulative effect that does exactly what Tom had been aiming for. Tom also uses a different voice so that the police officer doesn’t recognize him from sound. Tom’s confidence takes care of everything else. If he’d acted scared or nervous, then Ravini would have certainly caught up on his fear and nervousness. But Tom’s confidence becomes his biggest asset in this moment, and so, even as he sits right in front of the inspector, he is not recognized, and Ravini fails to notice the biggest clue right in front of him, the clue that could have solved the entire case in one stroke.

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