“Theatre, circus, film – to me it’s all one”

April 28, 2019 April 30th, 2019 Music

Baz Luhrmann’s artistic attitude undoubtedly comes through loud and clear in his movies Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby. All these things become immediately noticeable in his films. Lurhaman has a unique and creative way of adding symbolism and theatrical elements to heighten dramatic tension and pathos to captivate the audience.

Lighting, glitter, fast passed camera movements, over exaggerated costumes, music and synchronised dance sequences is what Lurhaman uses in Strictly Ballroom, to heighten the dramatic tension and pathos in this theatrical film. The camera movements Lurhaman uses in the film play an important role in creating the “lively feel” of the movie, particularly in the dance sequences. The camera tracking, close ups and high angle shots on and above the ballroom floor emphasised in the dance routines in introducing the quirkiness of the characters and the highly competitive and serious sport of ballroom dancing. This is because Lurhaman wants to captivate the audience. In the first dance sequence of the movie the camera shots are long and they follow the characters, the action and may of the sub-plots that are happening. These shots highlight the smooth graceful flow of the waltz being performed compared to the fast pace and quick camera cuts used in the Latin dance scene. Lurhaman uses these techniques to create a theatrical and live feel as if you are watching a play. He uses camera angles and close ups, colour, costumes and glitter to turn the characters in to caricatures to exaggerate their status, personalities and motivations in the world and to represent their individuality. Colour is symbolically used in this film to let the audience know the attitudes that are consistent with specific groups. For example, colours like bright yellows, pinks and blues are in the costumes of the ballroom dancers to highlight their wealth and importance of being extraordinary. The makeup that is on the dancing women appears bright and exaggerated so that to the audience they seem unrealistic and somewhat cartoonish. This look appears on Scott’s mothers face with bright blue eye shadow and rosy cheeks. Whereas at Fran’s house Lurhaman has purposely used colours such as browns, reds and grey colours in their clothes to represent the real spirit of dancing. In doing this he makes Fran and her family look natural and not cartoonish as a contrast to Scott’s family, Barry Fife and Tina Sparkle. Fran has a Spanish background, and in their culture, dancing comes from passion. Passion is represented as the colour red in Fran’s Pan Pacific Grand Prix costume. This is because Lurhaman wants the audience to know that Fran is passionate about her love for Scott and her dancing. It also means a lot to her family and their culture.

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Baz Lurhman has a creative way of creating dramatic tension and pathos for his characters throught his music choices. For example in the number that firsts introduces us to Satine we find out a lot about her character as she sings ‘Sparkling Diamonds’ which is a mash up of ‘diamonds are a girls best friend’ and ‘Material Girl’. In this scene we can clearly see that Satine is the star of the Moulin Rouge because all eyes are focused on her when she appears above the stage on a trapeze swing. All the men are begging for her attention and trying to give her money. Later in this scene we learn that Satine has to seduce a Duke that night in order to convince him to help Satine and the Bohemians to put on a show called Spectacular! Spectacular!

Symbolism, pathos and dramatic tension play an important role in Baz Lurhaman’s film The Great Gatsby. One of the most prominent symbols are the parties Gatsby throws. Lurhaman creates theatrical elements in the set of these parties with costumes, cat walks, fireworks and music. Perhaps one of the most powerful symbols in The Great Gatsby is the green light emanating from Daisy’s house across the bay. At the beginning of the movie the green light is represented as Gatsby’s desire to win back Daisy and if that light is glowing he knows he still has a chance to get her back. Lurhaman purposely placed the green light across the bay from Gatsby house, at the end of Daisy’s dock. This is significantly important because the green light is both visible but out of reach symbolises an even deeper desire in him to reach the unreachable that is Daisy Buchanan. This builds the dramatic tension and pathos throughout the movie because, as the audience, we become sympathetic for Gatsby because he is so alone and all he wants is to have Daisy back in his arms.

In conclusion Baz Lurhaman has a creative way of using symbolism and theatrical elements to heighten the dramatic tension and pathos in his movies Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby.


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