Strictly Ballroom

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The expressionistic film “Strictly Ballroom” composed by Baz Luhrmann is about the spectacle of ballroom dancing. Tough not always in a literal sense, the film is not strictly about ball room dancing but also a “microcosm of society”. Moreover the contradictory forces within the society and the use of image to mediate social relations. This piece also fits in very well with Guy Debord’s “the society of the spectacle”. Debord’s work is a critique of modern capitalism. But more specifically for our reasons a critique of image as a form of social control.

Debord wrote in his aphoristic style that social relations are mediated by an image, the image being an accumulation of things and the omnipresent mediation of social relations by image is the spectacle. This core analyst of culture in modern society also applies to the relationships in Strictly Ballroom. The way in which someone dresses and dances is their image and that mediates the way they conduct relationships in the micro-society.

The spectacle begins. The opening stages present itself as a fairy tale, the first thing we see is the red drape and “Strictly Ballroom” written like it was taken straight from a Children’s classic. This technique is used to let people know they are watching a fair tale, a spectacle. The first we see of the characters is them awaiting the competition, exuberant for the coming contest. The composer shows them in the old black and white style presentation, again an idealised spectacle, a collection of image. Scot, Liz and the other couple take to floor. The composer changes the colour from a back and white fairy tale presentation to a more harsh light. This technique makes the dancers look less attractive in conjunction with over done make up and costumes. The ugliness of the spectacle manifests itself here, though the spectators (dancers included) are unable to spot this because they are taken in by the end goal, the ‘need’.

The dancers including Scott and Liz are living...
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