American Beauty Essay

Topics: Happiness, Third World, Second World Pages: 6 (2514 words) Published: August 26, 2014
American Beauty Essay 2
Question (a) A successful film offers an insight into our own society. To what extent do you agree with this statement? Many successful films provide insight into our own society. This is observed in the film ‘American Beauty’ by Sam Mendes, which presents us with the idea of the American Dream/Materialism which is also relevant in today's society. In this essay I will explore this idea by linking our society to what is portrayed in American Beauty, along with the aspects of characters, setting, and themes. This is shown through the character Carolyn Burnham, the neighbourhood and place they live, the idea that true happiness is not found in material items and supported by the use of cinematic techniques. The first way that this idea of ‘American Beauty’ is portrayed is through the link it has to today's society. In a world where consumerism is part of life, there is a common perception that having the latest trends portray a better image and therefore leads to greater happiness. Although people believe this, consumerism actually leaves them without happiness. This is highlighted in people that may appear to be happy through the image they project to everyone but deep down they are actually unhappy. This is shown in American Beauty as it explores the nature behind closed doors. Sam Mendes uses the Burnham family as an example of the misconception around the American dream and materialism. In the film American Beauty, Sam Mendes portrays a family that has everything; a nice house, car, perfect garden etc. It even shows the character Carolyn who isn’t happy unless she projects an image of success at all times which is shown through the items she has. The main reason that the idea of the American Dream/Materialism relates to the society we live in today is due to the fact that we have a never ending need for the next best thing to make ourselves look better. Sam Mendes purposely uses the Burnham family to get this idea across to the viewers as he shows that living the ‘American Dream’ and having a huge array of material items doesn’t bring true happiness. Instead this shows the viewers that a seemingly normal family may appear to have everything and be living the perfect life but in reality are dissatisfied, unhappy and totally consumed in material items creating a false source of happiness. This is highlighted in one scene in particular where Mendes uses a wide angle camera shot to show the Burnham family eating dinner at the table together. In this scene it becomes apparent that this family is in fact unhappy. Mendes shows this via the space separating one another at the dinner table, the awkwardness/lack of conversation occurring, and also through the use of dark lighting giving a dull, sad and unhappy effect. The reason this scene is used is to leave a lasting impression of the family’s unhappiness through the cinematic techniques. “This isn’t life, this is just stuff. And it's become more important to you than living”. Us in society are largely focused around material items nowadays and is evident through the latest gadgets such as iphones which are now used to interact with one another, rather than having personal/verbal interactions. In the society we are living in today, more and more people are striving for the perfect image by trying to be the most popular, follow the latest trends etc. Although this may seem harmless, it is an increasing problem and is tearing families apart and effecting relationships. This film offers insight into our society because it highlights that by having the perfect life and being obsessed with material goods does not mean you are happy. People who believe this are in reality dissatisfied by life as they do not realise that true happiness comes from those who surround you not the goods you buy. The second way this idea becomes evident is through the character Carolyn Burnham. Carolyn and her husband Lester Burnham appear to have the perfect life, like many in our...
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