Strictly Ballroom

Topics: Danube, The Blue Danube, Waltz Pages: 6 (2012 words) Published: March 28, 2007
Images are constantly presented to responders on both a literal and figurative level. The film, ‘Strictly Ballroom', directed by Baz Luhrmann and the poem ‘Country Towns' by Kenneth Slessor, both display vivid images of the world in which its characters exist, which in turn reflect the world in reality.

‘Strictly Ballroom' conveys to its audience the issue of individuality over conformity where the characters are caught in a world which should encourage their individual self expression, yet are paradoxically constantly dominated by the fear to express themselves as individuals. Scott Hastings, the protagonist challenges the dance federation by choosing to dance his own steps, fighting for his freedom to express himself.

In the opening scenes of the film, Luhrmann establishes the conventional, elegant atmosphere of the ballroom dancing world through the use of a combination of techniques such as diegetic music of the traditional Blue Danube Waltz by Strauss, flamboyant costumes and quick editing. However, this is a false interpretation of the characters' true lives. These fancy costumes only mask the inability of federation dance steps to express the beauty in dancing and hence the inability of these dancers to express themselves as an individual. Quick editing and close-ups of the dancers dancing emphasise the flashiness of the ballroom dancing world. It is so quick that the audience is incapable of keeping up with its pace. This image prevents the audience from connecting with the dancers who all appear the same at a glimpse. Hence, they are only shown to be dancing as if it were a routine like everybody else in this world rather than dancing from the heart. As the Blue Danube Waltz is a traditional music played diegetically, the audience is able to sense the formality of ballroom dancing. However, this sound image emphasises that tradition is blended into their world and is therefore difficult to remove. The use of these techniques together conveys a large portrait of the characters acting as conformists rather than finding the courage within themselves to seek individuality.

Barry Fife could be described as a dictator who rules this world. Through the extreme close-up of his mouth, covering the entire shot, and an image of a map the world in his office, his dominance is highlighted. His mouth is shown in an extreme close-up in another scene where he denies, ‘There are no new steps', and a newspaper is seen to spin out of his mouth. This image suggests that his voice is so influential that it is immediately published into the media. Fife's video, titled, ‘Dance to Win', said to be the ‘only way to dance' implies that he believes winning is paramount in his world. It is also implied that in order to win, the characters must dance as Fife says. The video is a motif of the film, to remind dancers to comply with his rules, otherwise face the serious consequences. This highlights his manipulative nature and corruption. Many of the characters in ‘Strictly Ballroom' are a product of Fife's manipulation that they often forget or are afraid to pursue their dreams. For example, Scott wants to dance his own steps, to be an individual, but fears losing and confronting those who oppose. In the scene where he is by himself in Kendall's studio, once again the Blue Danube Waltz plays, but this time non-diegetically. This symbolises the traditional dancing barriers that trapped him in conformity since the age of six. Because the music is non-digetic, it suggests that he has hope of breaking free of this barrier. He stamps his foot on the floorboard, and the music stops. This image resembles Scott's determination to stop conforming. There is silence for about one second to allow Scott to realise he is alone in this studio and is free to do what he wants to.

Fran's existence helped Scott realise his dream and confirm his understanding of what he really wants, that is to be an individual rather than simply ‘dancing to win'. She...
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