April 29, 2010
Dreamgirls (2006) depicts the rise to stardom, and all joys, sacrifices, and heartbreaks associated with it. Effie White, Deena Jones, and Lorrell Robinson are the Dreamettes, beautiful girls with beautiful voices, looking to make it big. With help from their ambitious manager, Curtis Taylor, the Dreamettes thrive under the spotlight. However, the popular film also shows the hardships of the 1960's. Through the manipulation of cinematography, Dreamgirls exposes, in the scene at the welfare office with Effie and Magic, the suffering of single black mothers and their struggle to raise children without a supporting father figure.
The mise-en-scene of a film manipulates the set and the actors in a way that will convey a certain message. Dreamgirls partakes in a detailed use of mise-en-scene. The analysis of acting style and lighting emphasizes the emotion of Effie's welfare scene.
Effie uses realist method acting to convey the anguish that single black mothers face. Her body is constantly rocking in the scene, and her lips are always pursed. She frowns at her daughter, Magic, and when the white welfare man asks her about working, she leans in and calls him "Mister." Her body movement reveals a lot. Her fidgeting body shows anxiety while her lean in towards the man shows a confrontational attitude. Her pursed lips, tone of voice, and choice of words ("Mister") express irritation. Her body language is characteristic of stress and frustration. The little things reveal her discontentment with everything.
The manipulation of lighting amplifies Effie's stress. While the white "Mister" is clearly lit with very little shadow, Effie's face shows a high contrast in light with the right side of her face lit and the left side shadowed. This low key light creates a serious mood, and even speaks to Effie's contrasting troubles: she must find a job to support Magic, but she refuses to do anything but sing. It can even be interpreted as...