Style and Technique
Throughout 'Strictly Ballroom' Baz Luhrman uses non-realistic, exaggerated techniques. Some such examples include: •
the red velvet curtain to open the film
the mock documentary style of the opening sequence
the use of the 'Blue Danube' waltz
the contrast between the glamour of the ballroom and the lives of those involved in it.
Text analysis: Image
Strictly Ballroom can be interpreted in a variety of ways. It has been described as: 1.
A musical comedy, with big production dance scenes and a plot similar to musical comedies in the 1930s and 1940s 2.
A fairytale or fantasy like ‘Cinderella’ or ‘The Ugly Duckling’ 3.
a satire or parody of competitive ballroom dancing.
The key to understanding the film is that the film is a combination of all three of these approaches: it is a romantic musical comedy. The director makes use of all these possibilities in the plot, characterisation, camera work, music and so on.
It is also a comedy, using the satiric technique of showing faults in ideas or behaviour by exaggerating them until they become ridiculous.
The red curtain at the opening shows that we are entering a non-realistic world, seeing a theatrical performance. The expectations of this introduction are entertainment. Curvasive writing of 'strictly ballroom' is used which adds to the glamour.
*It is worth noting the use of camera angles in the opening sequence. The ballroom dancing scenes are all made up of multiple shots taken from a variety of angles. The 'documentary' shots are much simpler, mostly one camera shots taken at eye level. The pace and excitement of the ballroom scenes are enhanced by this contrast.
Notice the scene which starts with J.J. Silvers announcing the '...Samba'. He is shot from a low angle which focuses only on his hand and the red velvet curtain behind. It is a dramatic and artificial angle which adds to the excitement of the event and the stylised feel of the film as a whole.
One important piece of camera work is the scene in Barry Fife's office. This is a 'documentary' scene but it is not as passive here as in the other scenes. Barry is lit from behind and his face is in shadow to heighten the idea that he is a sinister character. When Barry says 'win' the camera slams into the close-up of his mouth. The effect is startling. We get a sense of Barry's absolute power in the world of ballroom, and of the importance of winning to him and others in his world. It is an important example of the highly stylised and theatrical techniques used throughout the film.
In the opening section, colour is provided mainly by the dancers' costumes. Each couple is distinguished by using a dominant colour - Ken and Pam are in white, Wayne and Vanessa are in green, Scott and Liz are in gold. Creates a flamboyant and colour style; white differentiating the characters. Colour outside the ballroom scenes is also important, Les' light blue suit and Shirley's purple dress help to characterise them as shallow, silly people.
The tango is a passionate and confrontational dance. It dominates this section musically and is cleverly incorporated into the action when Scott confronts Liz. Throughout the film the emotions and styles of the dances selected will influence the action. This is the first important example of this technique.
**The courage required to be true to your natural self is one of the central themes of the film. Scott lives in a world of fierce pressure and competition, where to win he must adhere to the rules of others, such as Barry Fife. It is a world in which individuality and creativity are surrendered in the desire to win. No one is able to come up with a satisfying answer to Scott’s question ‘Did you like the way I danced?’ When Scott is dancing to satisfy the expectations of others, he is not happy. Scott’s meek and silent father, Doug, is a living example of how hollow victory can be if the price is stifling creativity. Scott’s natural...
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