11 January 2018
4th Genre Essay
Baz Lurhmann is a film director notorious for his peculiar and extravagant portrayal of set works through the incorporation of various cinematic techniques. His strategic use of these elements is evident in the films he adapts and produces. The manner in which these techniques are utilised evolves significantly from Lurhmann’s prior directing expertise, to composing a versatile masterpiece- The Great Gatsby.
In the film Strictly Ballroom, colour plays an integral role in unfolding character temperaments and attitudes. The magnified cosmetic shades and vivid-coloured, flamboyant dance ensembles (made in bright yellow, pink red and blue) are physical representations of the minimal habitual mental states and unfeasible circumstances that exist within the film. Tina Sparkle is a character who epitomises the theme of superficiality (that affects even those who are withdrawn from it such as Fran) through both appearance and behaviour. In the opening scene, she is dressed in sparkling yellow attire and has a glistened face that corresponds to this look as a result of exaggerated cosmetic shades. She manifests dramatized emotions and reactions consistently throughout the film- her tone of voice and irrational thinking coincides with the theme, which allows for characters like Tina to behave the way they do. Although colour serves the purpose of justifying and establishing character identities and themes in Strictly Ballroom, it is used as a more mature and impactful symbolic token in The Great Gatsby. The green light being a potent symbolic token in the film represents money, hope, the future and Gatsby’s undying longing for Daisy. The aspect of money symbolised by the green light is a driving force behind many events in pursuit of living The American Dream for characters in the film, moulding their synthetic personas. Additional colours are used to portray the irony and hypocrisy that exists within the corrupted atmosphere in The Great Gatsby. This is evident in the scene where Gatsby awaits Daisy’s arrival in Nick’s home without Tom’s knowledge, he and Daisy are dressed in white clothing- the colour white is associated with purity, which contradicts the impure actions of the two, therefore displaying Lurhmann’s dexterous use of this cinematic technique.
Music is a tool used in both films; at times it acts as an indication of the mood of a particular scene and foreshadows preceding events. In Strictly Ballroom, music differs according to mood; it is heightened and rapid when characters are anxious or in conflict. On the contrary, music tempo and pitch is mellow and calming in relaxed situations, in the instance when Fran and Scott take a peaceful walk during the day after a dance session. However in Gatsby, Lurhmann strays from the conventional use of era-appropriate music in films by combining ultra- modernist musicians like Jay-Z and Kanye West. Lurhmann uses the song lyrics “who gon’ stop me now?” as camera angles expose the vastness of the city and carries the audience through party scenes. The repetitive use of this verse maintains the attention of modern viewers because of the familiar music and sparks an interest in older viewers. It also subtly reveals the corruption of The American Dream- the cycle of the unjust measures taken to fulfil the need of every character to live their desired reality; therefore nothing will prevent them from doing so, hence the lyrics “who gon’ stop me huh?’
Essentially, Baz Lurhmann’s directing skill has evolved immensely from his earlier experience. His latter produced films have proven to be great successes as a result of the strategic and compelling manifestation of his filmic visions.