Essay on The Techniques Used in American Beauty

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Pages: 5

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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The flourishing presence of the colour red, acknowledges Lesterʼs fierce lust and desire to be free. This is effectively conveyed during the scene where Lester visualises Angela in a vibrant sea of roses, touching herself seductively on his bedroom ceiling, also when Lester buys the car “he has always wanted” (Ball, 1999), which is a 1970 Firebird and strategically, red.

Music is a powerful medium in film and Mendes uses the soundtrack in American Beauty to articulate the characterʼs evolving personalities and relationships, and to set the tone of each scene, particularly noticeable during Lesterʼs transformation. Composer, Thomas Newmanʼs score is described as “lonely and melancholy” (Mendes, 1999), which is an appropriate expression for Lesterʼs existence at the beginning of this film. This is similarly demonstrated and supports to define the initial relationship between Lester and Carolyn, as shown by the dull music that Carolyn chooses to play at the dinner table. When Lesterʼs journey to freedom gains speed, evidently his sense of self worth has increased as there is an optimistic lift in the genre of music that is played as the backdrop to Lesterʼs life. This melancholy music played at the beginning of the film, begins to disappear and is replaced by fast paced, rock music. Simultaneously as Lesterʼs lifestyle transforms into marijuana smoking and employment at a fast