It’s hard to think of an aspect of movie production less appreciated than the prop. For most viewers, props are incidental to a given scene: They’re just stuff that happens to surround or be used by the actual characters. But as Rishi Kaneria explains in this very insightful video essay, the movie prop has long served much loftier purposes than mere decoration.
In some movies—Cast Away, for example—an object like a volleyball can become a key character. In others, props function as metonyms for a protagonist—Indiana Jones’ bullwhip, say, or Mary Poppins’ umbrella. And in films like The Godfather, which sees Francis Ford Coppola use oranges to foreshadow death, a simple object can anchor a director’s primary themes.