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With close reference to opening of the film American Beauty discuss the symbolic and technical codes used and explain how they relate to the American Dream.

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Introduction

With close reference to opening of the film American Beauty discuss the symbolic and technical codes used and explain how they relate to the American Dream. By Katie Hall `American Beauty` is a drama, it was distributed by DreamWorks and it won five Oscars including one for cinematography. The film was written by Alan Ball and directed by Sam Mendes. It was a very popular film with audiences of all ages wanting to see what the American Dream was like and how they lived. The establishing shot shows suburban streets with regimented houses, this shows that the owners are aspiring to the American Dream. `American Beauty` is the portrayal of a suburbanite nuclear family that has gone super-critical, superficial and materialistic. The main characters in the film are the Burnham family. First there is the father Lester Burnham who is played by Kevin Spacey, he is the leading character, a 42 year old man who earns $60,000 a year as a writer for a magazine, who seems to be fairly bored with his life. Carolyn (played by Annette Benning) looks like a typical American with white teeth and perfect skin she would like to live the perfect American life and have a normal, happy and smart family. She is a false cheerful and a perfectionist who is trying to seek status. ...read more.

Middle

A close up reveals Carolyn as she cuts the rose and examines it. We see her instant reaction in a reaction shot. She is admiring the perfection of the rose she has grown whilst she has been spending some time in her beloved garden (this gives her a chance to get away from her husband and spend some time with herself). A large depth of field shot shows Carolyn with a smile on her face looking happy, as she is talking to Jim, one of the gay neighbours, who seem pleased to be talking to her, and Lester is looking out of the window with a jealous look on his face, sulking like a child. We get the sense that if Lester came out he would spoil her perfect garden. As a result of this mis-en-scene we believe that he does not fit in with the idea of Carolyn's life and she isn't too bothered about him being in her `American Dream` and he is kept in the background. Lester would prefer to be a bigger part of her life but this just isn't possible in Carolyn's eyes. In the next mis-en-scenes, at the beginning of the film, Lester comes rushing out of the house as Carolyn is telling him to get a move on and he drops his brief case. ...read more.

Conclusion

Before this scene was shown we see many family pictures and photos shown, the first ones are in black and white and the family are smiling, these were taken when the family was much younger and happier. Later, in the last picture we are shown they are wearing clothes in red, white and blue. This symbolises that the family got on much better. There is a slow close up during the family meal and this shows the perfect positioning of the table with its white candles and red roses but in reality there has been forced perfection and false communication between the family. The technical codes and symbolic codes are extremely effective in this film, because they lead to a greater understanding of the message of the film. Alan Ball's view of the `American Dream` shows that it is dangerous because it encourages false behaviour and ultimate happiness. They help enhance viewing especially to an older audience. They do lead to a deeper understanding of the message `look closer` as seen on Lester's desk when he worked for the company. A point of view shot shows Lester's humiliation and Brad's superiority. Lester later went onto work for a fast food chain selling burgers, which shows that he hasn't got as far in life as he would hope. The writers of the film are aware of the `American Dream` and suggest that he hasn't got as far in life as he would have hoped, it has a negative effect on peoples lives. ...read more.

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