Thursday, March 15, 2012

American Beauty - Scene Comparing

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In the film, American Beauty directed by Sam Mendes, two sequences that were of significance were the opening and closing scenes. The opening scene is important as it foreshadows how the main characters will develop throughout the film. In the closing scene, the full development of characters is seen, and this development is highlighted through important events in the closing scene.

In the opening sequence the main characters foreshadow how they will develop throughout the film. One way in where this foreshadowing is seen is when the main character Ricky asks Jane if she wants her father (Lester) dead, “Do you want me to kill him for you” this then inevitably foreshadows the death of Lester. Another way in which foreshadowing is used is when Lester’s voice-over is heard when he talks about Carolyn (his wife). Lester through the help of an establishing shot of his ‘perfect’ neighbourhood portrays his wife as an in control and demanding for per section, “Notice how her gardening gloves match the handles of her secateurs that’s is not an accident”. This helps in setting up the so-called allusion of suburban bliss and foreshadows that it is not all what it seems to be.

During the opening scene the main character Lester is introduced. Lester is seen as bored and stuck in modern suburbia neurosis. One way this is shown is when the camera pans horizontally and we are shown Lester’s daily routine of putting his slippers on to having a shower. This sets up the mundane nature of Lester’s daily routine, and when he says, “It’s all down hill from here” This highlights that Lester has hit a mid-life crisis and because of this he finds life utterly boring. Lester’s crisis is formed by trying to keep up with society and consumerism, this caused Lester to find himself in a rut with life, which led to lack of personal fulfilment. Therefore Lester’s mid-life crisis is important as it shows the imperfections of American suburbia.

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The closing scene shows the result of character development, as modern suburbia stresses are shown for what they really are. Carolyn has developed out of the ‘perfect American’ homemaker seen at the start; she is now no longer smiling. The development of her character is first seen when she is seen crying and listening to her self-motivation tapes, “You can do it!” as a result she is now seen as an un-stable neurotic person. Another character resulting in development is Lester, through Carolyn; Lester’s character development is best seen. One ways Lester’s development is seen is when juxtaposed with Carolyn; Carolyn who tried her best to conform to society with communism and materialistic values but failed while Lester escape just it. This is seen when Lester quits his job and gets a job at the fast food joint “Mr Smilies”, unlike Carolyn, Lester was happy with life.

Another point the closing scene highlights is that ‘real’ inner beauty in life can be achieved. Through Lester’s character development, the audience can see the Lester’s death was not in vein. One way this is seen is Lester’s transformation from a unexcited office worker, where he was bored with life, to a happy “Mr Smilies” employee. The way in which this beauty with life is seen in the closing scene is when he looks at his family photo, the camera pans across past the red roses and on the white wall. This is effective as it shows that Lester still loves his family very much and that he has truly found inner beauty, as seen when the camera passes the red roses. The red roses are significant to this scene as they symbolise the beauty in Lester’s death. Lester’s character has therefore developed, and the beauty in his death is highlighted even more when Ricky smiles at Lester’s at dead face, and Lester smiles back.

Therefore in the film American Beauty by Sam Mendes, the opening and closing sequences were effective. They were effective as they showed the development of characters through significant events, and through the foreshadowing and highlighting important events and characters.

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