Strictly Ballroom Essay
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The concept of belonging is explored well in the film Strictly Ballroom. Directed by Baz Luhrmann and released in 1992, this film explores the concept of belonging in relation to places, events and relationships. Throughout the film, techniques such as symbolism, lighting, costume, non-diagetic music and dialogue help to express these concepts to the audience.
Firstly, Symbolism is the most common technique used throughout the film to convey belonging to the ballroom dancing world. In Scene 1 of “Strictly Ballroom”, symbolism is used to connect the protagonist, Scott to the world of ballroom dancing.
The number 100 pinned to his back represents his strive for perfection and his determination to win. The gold sequinned costume also reinforces this idea, also being symbolic of the golden performance expected of him. Through symbolism, we can see that scott is trying to belong to the ballroom dancing world by conforming to their standards and expectations.
Secondly, belonging to different places is delineated through the film technique of lighting.
In Scene 3 when Scott is dancing by himself in front of the mirrors, natural lighting is used which conveys a sense of freedom and enjoyment felt by him as he dances his own steps. Scott feels a new found sense of belonging where he can be himself. This is contrasted to the bright, artificial lighting used in the competition where everyone must conform to standards of the Dance Federation. In the competition, Scott does not smile and he is conforming to the standards of the dance federation which do not allow new steps in the competition.
Another aspect of belonging explored in the film is belonging and relationships, especially for Fran and Scott. This is expressed through the choice of costume for both protagonists. At the beginning of the film (scene 1) Fran wears oversized t-shirt and tights and oversized glasses. When we are introduced to Scott, he is wearing costumes for the dance competition but when we see him by himself or dancing with Fran, he wears simple white singlet and black pants.
Also for Fran, as the film progresses, her clothes are replaced with more figure hugging leotards and leggings with skirts. By Scene 4, we see both protagonists have matching costumes (simple black and white attire) which symbolises their growing connection as a couple. The removal of her glasses in this scene completes her transformation from the ugly duckling. This technique conveys the belonging of the protagonists to each other as opposed to belonging to the dance federation and also represents their blooming relationship.
Non-diegetic music is also used effectively to show their relationship. Also in Scene 4, Scott and Fran are dancing to the song Time After Time. Some of the lyrics read “If you fall I will catch you” which symbolises Scott’s increasing acceptance of Fran and vice versa and also the development of their relationship not just professionally but also suggesting it romantically. They are beginning to belong to each other. In Scene 7, Non-diegetic music is used once again and again they are dancing to the song.
It’s lyrics “You won’t admit you love me..a million times ive asked you and then I ask you over and over again your only answer pehaps, perhaps, perhaps…if you cant make your mind up well never get started and I don’t want to wind up being parted broken hearted” are symbolic of the decision Scott needs to make both professionally and romantically in regards to his relationship with Fran. Their relationship is also emphasised through the close-up shot of them dancing and their intense eye contact. These techniques combine to delineate to us the growing sense of belonging Scott and Fran have with their relationship to each other.
Lastly, towards the end of the film, a long shot has been used to show us that the protagonists, mainly Scott, have found their sense of belonging. The long shot has been used at the Pan Pacifics to view all the dance couples on the dancefloor. The long shot juxtaposes Scott and Fran’s strong, passionate dancing against the flamboyant, inexpressive dancing of all the other couples helping to reinforce how much they don’t belong to this world. Costume, once again has been used to emphasise this point as Fran is wearing a beautiful, red, simple but sophisticated flamingo dress and Scott is wearing a vibrant gold matador jacket. These vibrant colours are symbolic of their passion for dancing and each other as well as their authenticity in their dance. Their costumes look beautiful and authentic in contrast to all the other couples who are wearing frilly, brightly coloured costumes which ridiculous in comparison. Scott has finally a true sense of belonging for himself which is being true to oneself.
Dialogue is used to show that in order to belong, you must conform to the standards of the Dance Federation and the authority, Barry Fife (the antagonist). In Scene 1 after Scott danced his own steps, his dance partner at the time, Liz, says to him “Im not dancing with you until you dance they way you’re supposed to.” Liz’s dialogue puts pressure on Scott to conform rejecting his desire for individuality. Les says “he resorted to his own flashy, crowd pleasing steps” showing disapproval for what happened feeling that the dance should be to please the judges and Barry Fife. When Scott asks his friend Wayne how he felt about his dance, he replies “I don’t know, you didn’t win did you?” showing that winning is everything in the dance world. Dialogue has been used to make us viewers aware that in the Ballroom Dancing world, the concept of belonging means conforming to the rules and standards set up by them.
In conclusion, we can understand there are different ways to belong. Belonging to a place or an event may require you to conform to their rules and standards which can stifle individuality- this can have negative effects on people. Relationship and belonging may help you find yourself. Also finding belonging by being true to oneself is so most important.