Mamma Mia Paper

Topics: Musical film, Mamma Mia!, Meryl Streep Pages: 6 (2256 words) Published: November 22, 2010
The film Mamma Mia! (Lloyd, 2008) is based on the extremely popular and successful Broadway musical which opened in 1999 in London. Since then, this Broadway production has become a global phenomenon which has entertained countless audiences, and still holds on strong as one of the most enjoyed and accepted musicals of this generation (Shenton, 2009). And so it is assumed that the motion picture adaptation of Mamma Mia! would be just as popular; and it was, expanding into one of the highest-grossing films of 2008 as well as receiving two Golden Globe nominations along with many other awards (Mamma Mia!, 1990-2009). The film portrays a young woman named Sophie, played by Amanda Seyfried, on the eve of her wedding, who is convinced that in order to feel complete she must find her father. After reading her mother’s diary and revealing that she has three potential fathers, she proceeds to secretly invite all three of them to her wedding. Many of the themes and elements that encompass the film are typical of a classical Hollywood musical such as the presence of utopia and spontaneity, the emotional connection between the characters and their audience, and the constant premise of nostalgia. However, Director, Phyllida Lloyd, uses these themes and elements, as well as new techniques in soundtrack development, to make Mamma Mia! unique. She successfully manipulates the conventions of the classical musical and pieces together an updated version that speaks directly to its contemporary audience. Musicals were originally introduced in contemporary cinema by Hollywood in an attempt to create an escape for people during periods of economic and social instability. People who lived during eras such as the Great Depression, and other times of recession, had suppressed feelings of exhaustion, dreariness, and hopelessness. Musicals, with their utopian sensibility, served as a retreat from the real world and brought feelings of happiness, life, and energy to these people, even if it was only for a short time. The way in which musicals achieve this is by posing this idea that the characters in the film are ‘real’ people, and their problems and resolutions to those problems are also ‘real’. When the audience ‘suspends their belief’, they forget that what they are watching is an actual construction and get swept up in the euphoric experience that encompasses the film (McMillin, 2006, p. 55). This utopian feel is a key aspect concerning the construction of a musical, since its main focus is to distract its audience from any hardships that may be occuring in their lives. The idea of a utopia refers to the “imagined or wished for versions of the human condition which are envisaged as actually happening in the world.” (Parker, 2002, p. 11). So if the audience can actually envision and believe that the events taking place in Mamma Mia! can actually happen, it keeps that hope alive within the individual watching the film that this happiness could also come to them. Mamma Mia! illustrates this utopia through the beauty of the film’s setting, the spontaneity of its musical numbers, and its happy ending which wraps up nicely with all characters finding their place in the world and true happiness. Mamma Mia! is set on a remote Greek island called Kalchuri and is filled with vivid shots of the luxurious beaches and a vast mountain side. Total relaxation and happiness is the type of environment that this island paradise presents to its viewers. To further the island’s appeal, Sophie mentions in the film that it was “once the site of Aphrodite’s fountain, the goddess of love. If you drank the water you were supposed to find true love and perfect happiness.” This mythical fountain ads a mysterious element to the island making it even more appealing to the audience, and also serves as a metaphor foreshadowing the status of absolute utopia that is finally restored towards the conclusion of the film. The audience can easily envision themselves in this type of...
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