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The Techniques Used in American Beauty Essay

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The film American Beauty, directed by Sam Mendes is a film about imprisonment and escape from imprisonment (Mendes, 1999). American Beauty explores the breakdown of a suburban family man whose life journeys from self loathing and emptiness to freedom and liberation but at the ultimate cost of his life. Mendes effectively employs a range of techniques to help convey the meaning of this film such as set design, camera angles, colour and soundtrack.

Cinema often uses structured set design and camera angles to convey meaning to an audience. Throughout American Beauty, Mendesʼ use of set design and camera angles have been carefully structured to emphathise the filmʼs theme of imprisonment. In the opening scene the audienceʼs introduction to the
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Interestingly, as the film progresses and Lesterʼs relationships evolve, the camera angles also evolve in reverse and the audience begins to see Lester shot in a low angle and characters like Carolyn are shot in a high angle, indicating that Carolyn is now vulnerable. These altered camera angles give Lester a triumphant image.

Another technique Mendes uses is colour. The use of colour is often an important technique utilised by film directors to communicate themes and ideas to an audience. In American Beauty, Mendes powerfully uses colour to communicate that the characters are attempting to escape from their imprisonment. Initially the characters are seen in environments that are very dull and nondescript, as Mendes (1999) states when referring to Lesterʼs work setting. As Lesterʼs quest for escapement gains momentum, the vivid colour of red is gradually introduced more into this film through subtle furnishings in the Burnham house and particularly integrated with Lesterʼs sexual fantasies. The use of the vibrant, red rose petal is first introduced when Lester and Carolyn attend Janeʼs cheer performance, where Lester loses himself as he enters his first “tunnel of fantasy” (Mendes, 1999). Deschler (1999) states the rose is symbolic of American beauty, and the colour red symbolises passion and love. The significance of the rose petal and the colour red is repeatedly seen throughout the film in house furnishings such as a bouquet of
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