In this essay I shall be comparing and contrasting the techniques used in two musical scenes. Some of the things I shall be looking at in this essay are sound, vision (such as camera angles and colour) and emotions for both the characters and the audience viewing it. Directors use musical scenes because they can communicate feelings of the characters over to the audience far more than an ordinary dialogue scene ever can. Not only can they portray characters emotions through colour, dialogue and character behaviour, but they can use another two key factors: music and dance, as well as being able to enhance all the other aspects.
Empathy for the characters can be built far more easy than with a scene without the musical aspects.
One of the scenes I shall be studying is ‘No Life Without Wife’ from the film “Bride and Prejudice”, directed by Gurinder Chadha. The film is an Eastern and Western fusion, based on the popular novel ‘Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austin.
In the film, a mother (Nadia Batbur) is trying to marry off her four daughters to wealthy men. However, one of her daughters, Lalita (Aishwarya Rai) is a strong willed young lady who decides that she will marry for love, not money. She turns down a proposal from an arrogant man named Mr. Kohli (Nitu Ganatra), much to her mother’s displeasure. Later on in the film, she meets an American businessman and they end up inadvertently falling in love with each other.
In the scene I’m using, Lalita’s sisters are teasing her about the imminent proposal from Mr. Kohli, and she describes her perfect man, something which Mr. Kohli definitely is not.
The other scene I shall be looking at is ‘Elephant Love Medley’ from the movie ‘Moulin Rouge’. It was directed by Baz Luhrman in 2001, and although it is not to everyone’s taste, nobody could argue that it doesn’t send your senses into overdrive. The film is set in the famous Moulin Rouge, in Paris. Satine (Nicole Kidman) is a high class prostitute who works in one of those clubs also as a dancer. She meets a young idealist, Christian (Ewan McGregor) and mistakes him for one of her clients. She falls for him, but when she realises who he is, she tries to pretend that it was all an act. Christian manages to persuade her to follow her heart with a barrage of love songs, all put together in a medley.
However, a Duke who is infatuated with Satine wants Satine to leave Christian and come with him, but she refuses as she loves Christian. The duke threatens to have Satine killed, so she breaks it off with him in a bid to protect him, but Christian doesn’t give up. The Duke’s plan is thwarted, but unfortunately Satine suffers respitory failure caused by Tuberculosis and dies in Christian’s arms. The scene I shall be looking at is the one when Christian is trying to persuade Satine to take a risk, and do what she really wants to do.
In ‘No Life Without Wife’ a jazzy style of music is used as it can be easily manipulated to show a wide range of feelings and emotions in just that one genre. It can be uplifting, romantic and intriguing, and pauses work well in it. No other music style can be used in such a wide range of ways Without the feel of the scene being lost, and the scene loosing its sense of rhythm.
‘Elephant Love Medley’ also keeps the music flowing, but in a totally different way. Instead of just using one style, it uses a medley to doesn’t need to keep changing around one particular style, it can do it in a totally different way; it can blend all the different styles together. As it is a medley, a completely different song can be used at any point in the scene to go along with the current ideas. For different emotions, a song with not only different words but a different rhythm and instrument set can be used, without any loss to the scene. By way of a medley, the music matches up with the character behaviour, just like in ‘No Life Without Wife’ with the music going well with the scene by using such a versatile music genre.
In ‘No Life Without Wife’ there is a constant rhythm to the music, which keeps the audience engaged and doesn’t loose their attention. The rhythm doesn’t ever become distorted in anyway, and the pauses are used effectively so instead of losing your concentration it holds onto it with a tight grip, as you hold your breath and wait to see what will happen.
With “Elephant Love Medley” the rhythm is less consistent, with regular changes in it. This, however, backs up the scene and the mood changes. Through ‘Elephant Love Medley’ the mood and character expressionism go through many changes, first with Satine denying her love, then not allowing herself to love, and Christian trying many different tactics to help her come to terms with what she feels on the inside. It also uses pauses well, and does a similar thing to ‘No Life Without Wife’: it draws the audience in and captivates them fully. As the pauses are used when the characters are thinking (Lalita imagining life with Mr. Kohli and Satine hesitating while trying to come up with excuses to push Christian away) they are at key stages that could affect the whole film. They are not overused as otherwise they would not have such a strong effect.
During ‘No Life Without Wife’ the volume remains at the same amplification throughout the scene as the main feelings in the scene does not particularly change. Lalita does not change her mind about Mr. Kohli; she looks upon him with the same animosity as always. The only time the volume notably changes is when she is dreaming about her perfect man. This is to create a dreamy atmosphere and show the audience that those are her innermost thoughts.
Contrary to ‘No Life Without Wife’, ‘Elephant Love Medley’ has frequent profuse changes in volume. At the start of the scene, when the speaking is gradually becoming singing, there is a crescendo in the music which brings it to the average volume of the song. There is a very obvious diminuendo when Satine sings softly about love, which then makes a spectacular contrast when Christian suddenly jumps onto the glass dome and sings rambunctiously about love lifting you up. The volume change works extremely well there as it makes the audience sit up and listen as it is so sudden and unpredicted.
The other key crescendo I think in Moulin Rouge is right at the very end, when Satine has finally broken down her barriers and she and Christian start to sing in unison. They music and their singing gets so loud to show the strength of their feelings towards one another, and especially in Satine’s case she can sing louder as she can now sing from her heart, and actually feel and mean what she is singing. The strength of the music is a metaphor for the strength of music in their hearts. Also, it show the audience what an important moment this is in the film-It is the basis for everything else to come.
In ‘No Life Without Wife’ the main instruments used are the piano and saxophones. Those are instruments stereotypically associated with jazz, and therefore have strong connotations with lively, upbeat music. On the other hand, a common instrument used in ‘Elephant love Medley’ is the violin. They are used especially near the start of the scene to build up the tension, as violins are instruments that often play melancholy or romantic pieces.
In ‘No Life Without Wife’ it is mainly Lalita’s viewpoint that is shown, as she is the main character in the scene and the film, so the director wants you to empathize with her the most. In ‘Elephant Love Medley’, both Christian and Satine’s viewpoints are shown as in ‘Moulin Rouge’ they are the two main characters. However, I do think Christian’s viewpoint is shown more as he is the one doing the persuading, and the director wants you to have a positive view of the scene, so therefore wants you to be feeling what Christian is, and not negative thoughts like Satine. The main characters viewpoints are shown as it help’s us to build our connection with them, and makes the films seem even more real.
For both musical scenes, the characters mannerism and behaviour engages the audience and generates atmosphere in a very striking way. Lalita and Satine, at the beginning of the scene, are both refusing someone’s love for them, but both for opposite reasons. Satine’s is because she doesn’t want to love, whereas Lalita’s is because she does want to love. They both deal with it in entirely different ways too. Lalita is more comical about it; she tries to shrug it off and mocks Mr. Kohli. One example of this is when Lalita and her sisters imagine Mr. Kohli in his boxer shorts, they pull faces and make disgusted noises.
Satine displays her supposed dislike of the idea by putting Christian down – she calls him a crazy fool- and trying to walk away from him. She turns her back on him as though she is trying to turn her back on the idea and somehow block it out because she feels that it is too much of a risk to take, especially for someone like herself. Christian on the other hand feels the risk is irrelevant, as love can conquer all. He undoubtedly loves Satine deeply, and he believes that it will work, no matter what. He feels it will last through time -that it is perpetual- as they will always have each other.
Throughout ‘No life Without Wife’, Lalita keeps up the comedy by continually making fun of Mr. Kohli. Satine starts to take it seriously when she starts to believe it could actually work out. She talks straight to Christian and looks right at him, aiming what she does at him, while also saying it to the audience and looking at them, unlike ‘No Life Without Wife’ when Lalita appears to be more singing herself and the audience than any specific person.
Lalita never queries her feelings for Mr. Kohli. She knows that she does not like him, and the scene does not change that for her. All it does it confirm it for her, and help her to decide how to manage it. Satine’s situation is homogenous to Lalita’s, as she also already knows in her heart of heart that she really loves Christian, and the scene just helps her to decide how to deal with it too.
To show they are in a predicament, and are considering them, they think out loud so we, the audience, know how they are feeling at the time, and can therefore empathize with them more. Both Lalita and Satine do try and get away from the situations as it is too much for them to handle at one time. While her sisters are teasing her, Lalita makes a half hearted attempt to get away from them. It is like the proposal from Mr. Kohli; she will not be able to get away from it so she might as well not even bother. She shut’s the door behind her, which is like a mental lock for her, to try and keep the horrid thought of Mr. Kohli and her mum’s anger for turning him down out of her mind.
Satine also tries to run away from Christian, as she is worried about being unable to resist him, and she knows that that could change her life forever. It is a huge decision, and if it does not work out it could have dire consequences on her. She doesn’t want to see Christian as she knows that what she feels is too powerful to ignore, but yet she knows that it’s a scary prospect, and she’s not sure if she’s ready to decide yet. While she is becoming more and more enthusiastic for the idea, she tries even harder to walk away as she does not want to admit it. Lalita hopes that if she forgets about it, it will just disappear, and Satine feels the same too.
In both scenes, contrasts of light and dark are used. As they are both set mainly outside at night, there is a lot of dark to be worked with which, if used effectively, can add a spectacular new layer to the scene. In ‘No Life Without Wife’ the contrast is used exceptionally well while Lalita is in the courtyard. She is the only thing well lit on such a dark background so she stands out. It also empathizes her innocence and purity, as she is given an angelic type look with the soft lighting.
Most of ‘Elephant Love medley’ is shrouded in darkness but there is some background lighting from building around the club. Satine and Christian are well lit, and while this is not to show their purity, it shows that they are good people. For Satine, the darkness could show her being lost and confused and the light on her is helping her find her way out. The light also makes the important things in the scene attract attention so we, the audience, have our eyes drawn towards them.
The two scenes are edited in different ways to create different effects at different points in the scene. A wide range of camera shots and angles which can extensively change the feeling you get from a scene. At one point during ‘No Life Without Wife’, a mid-shot is used to show Mr. Kohli eating his food in an uncivilized way, totally oblivious to how unhappy Lalita is. The background is dull, to show how it is in Lalita’s imagination. A mid-shot is used, so you can see Mr. Kohli’s face reasonably well and see his facial expression and unawareness of his “wife’s” feelings, as well as being able to see the backdrop and what he is actually doing in the scene.
At another point in the scene, a close up shot is used of Lalita’s face. This is while Lalita absorbed in her dreams about her ideal man. A close up shot is used at this point so you can see her face properly, and see her facial expressions and contours. You can understand what she is meaning more clearly if, while she speaks, you can tell from her face that she is thinking romantic thoughts. As she’s the person speaking, the director want’s you to be able to see her clearly and make sure that you know that she is the most important person in the scene.
The director of ‘Moulin Rouge’ also uses a shot with a style resembling that, and used for the same reasons. It is while Satine is listening to Christian telling her about the wonders of love, and of course the audience is desperate to se her reaction. Will she hold off, or will she give in and fall into Christian’s arms? The audience are waiting with baited breath, and want to see every slight flicker in her face. As with ‘No Life Without Wife’, Satine is shown close-up so the audience know that she is the person who you need to watch at that point, and it builds the audience’s involvement as they know exactly what is going on.
At the end of the scene, Satine finally realizes what she feels for Christian has far more importance to her than anything else in her life, and they move together and kiss. A two shot is used to show both of them, together at last. It makes them seem as two people with equal provenance; it shows them as a couple. When Satine finally admits her love, after gradually coming in on them, the camera, starts to rotate around them. This is so both of them can be seen fully and also to give the impression of everything revolving around them, as they are in love and that is all that matters.
Many symbols are used in both of the scenes to infer and add extra meaning to things that you already know. In ‘No Life Without Wife’ all the girls wear white, modest nightwear to show their innocence, virginity and purity. On the contrary, in ‘Elephant Love Medley’, Christian wears a black outfit and Satine wears a revealing vibrant red dress, which shows off her cleavage. Christian’s suit is traditional gentleman wear, whereas Satine’s dress is different to how most ladies would have dressed at the time. The vivid red symbolizes Satine’s passionate personality and her strength of character. The style of her dress adds to the impression that the audience gets of Satine, which contrasts with the idea of her you are getting from the scene.
In ‘No Life Without Wife’ there is a ‘Kholiwood’ sign in the background of one of Lalita’s imaginary scenes. It is a play on the word Hollywood, and is meant to show Mr. Kholi’s arrogance. It adds to the negative mental attitude that the audience already have built up of Mr. Kholi in their heads. Hollywood has connotations with money and fame, and the fact that Mr. Kohli associates himself with all that gives us an impression of his character.
Mr. Kohli also wears boxer shorts with the American Flag on them, to show Mr. Kohli’s obsession with all things American that he wants America so close to every part of him. This displays Mr. Kohli’s hypocritical attitude. He constantly goes on about the virtue of America, and he seems to love it so much, and yet he still wants an Indian bride. If he thinks America is so great then why won’t he be happy to marry an American?
In my chosen scene from ‘Moulin Rouge’ there are also many other symbols used. When Christian sings about love lifting you up, he jumps up onto a glass dome on the elephant. This is him literally showing what he is singing: The love is lifting him up. Additionally, he is trying to show the power of love. Being so high up Without being able to get your balance properly could be extremely dangerous, and yet Christian, as he is in love, will do anything. It symbolizes the empowerment of love; when you are in love you can do absolutely anything with no boundaries or constraints. His actions show love lifting up your body and, moreover, your mind.
Another significant use of symbolization is near the end of the scene, when the two characters finally join together. Satine and Christian kiss intensely by a heart shaped window. A heart has always has deep connotations related to the emotion of love, and the heart that sums up the whole scenes idea: love. At the same time fireworks are exploding outside -so it looks like they are in the heart- which give the impression of the fireworks breaking out and dancing in their hearts are.
I think that both of the scenes I chose provoke very strong emotions among the audience. ‘No Life Without Wife’ creates a light hearted and jokey atmosphere for the audience to try and cover up the underlying issues of Mr. Kohli’s imminent proposal. ‘Elephant Love medley’ provoke provokes feelings of joy and love, but like ‘No Life Without Wife’, also has underlying issues. For Lalita, it is how to explain to her mother that she wants to reject Mr. Kohli and for Satine it is how to earn money in ways that won’t involve ways that could make Christian uncomfortable and even be seen as infidelity.
In ‘No Life Without Wife’ we expect Lalita to make up her mind about what she will do. I expect that most people assume that Lalita will refuse Mr. Kohli, as he is everything that she did not describe as her perfect man. He isn’t understanding or magnanimous, and she obviously does not feel that he would care for her. In ‘Elephant Love Medley’ we expect Satine to come round eventually as there is such chemistry between them, and they seem like two people that just have to be together. We expect true love to prevail as everyone wants a happy ending.
In conclusion I think that the techniques such as sound and symbols that directors use engage the audience well, as they help you mentally understand everything better in a scene. If you understand everything, you can empathize with all the characters better as you understand what they are going through. Also, I think the music that creates a new level of excitement; it is the music which sends the buzz through your whole body.
In my opinion, the most effective for me was ‘Elephant Love Medley’. I think that is maybe because I can relate more to Christian and Satine as I, from my background, can understand more the risks of love than the feeling of being pressured love by a family member. I also find the music choice more effective for me as I find a wide range of songs keeps my attention more as I am sure to know at least one of them, so consequently I enjoyed it more too. Another thing I found was that there were more symbols which helped my build my connection with the scene, and I found the scene in general more exhilarating to watch.