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How do the techniques used in Cabaret give us an insight into the characters of the film?

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Introduction

In the 1970s hit Cabaret, the director, Bob Fosse, successfully uses a variety of filmmaking techniques to draw attention to different aspects of the multifaceted characters. Our understanding of the characters is shaped through the use of techniques ranging from changes in costume to mise-en-scene. Costuming is one of the most revealing aspects, and we can learn a lot about the characters by looking at the clothes they wear. Sally is a prime example of this. On stage Sally sports sexy, suggestive, revealing attire. She feels that she is divinely decadent and really is an international sensation as the emcee claims. This is reflected by the raunchy, glitzy clothes she wears. Sally tries to carry her femme fatale act on into her everyday life. Her clothing is different from the mainstream and this is Sally's attempt to be shocking. It shows a certain flamboyance, and self-confidence to wear these distinctive clothes. However, bit by bit we start to see that the glamorous, decadent Sally is nothing more than a fa�ade behind which a much more troubled, insecure person hides. At crisis points in Sally's life, she is exposed physically and emotionally as the femme fatale mask is stripped away. After she has had an abortion we see Sally in ordinary clothes. ...read more.

Middle

The emcee wears a large amount of make-up to accentuate his facial features. His eyebrows are coated in mascara, his face is painted white, he wears vibrant red lipstick and has overly rosy cheeks. He resembles a clown to some extent, or to take it a step further, almost a Shakespearian fool. The emcee plays a role like that of the fool as he dispenses his witty social commentary. Sally's attempts to dazzle and shock continue on into her hair and makeup. Her unusual fringe and hairstyle are truly unique, her eyes are accentuated and her green nails are almost unmistakeable. Sally wants to attract attention and to appear, as she describes herself , as an "International Woman of Mystery." Especially in the club, and also in normal life, Sally believes she is this shocking, fantastic person she so desperately wishes to be. Once again, after she returns from her abortion, she is void of her extravagant makeup and the physical exterior behind which she masquerades is gone. The real Sally is exposed. This occurs too when she goes to visit her father. Sally's makeup is another device she uses to propagate her fa�ade. Fosse uses mise-en-scene to shape our perceptions of the characters. Music and dancing is key to Sally's life and her record player is visible in many shots to emphasize this. ...read more.

Conclusion

Camera angles are key in showing people as being strong and in control, or weak and powerless. After her abortion, Sally is shown from a number of high angles, and as we look down on her we get the impression of her powerlessness. In contrast, the emcee is shown from low angles, and he appears at an elevated position on the stage. This reaffirms the power the emcee possesses, that is the knowledge of what is to come. In Sally's final song, lighting is used to show her changing emotions. She sings that life is a cabaret but is she ready to have moved on from Brian? A close up of her is shown in which as she sings, the spotlight on her progressively increases in warmth. This change in lighting alerts us to the fact that Sally has indeed committed herself to the cabaret, and is in fact ready to resume her search for stardom. The techniques used in Cabaret really do give us an insight into the characters of the film. People are presented not only as who they are, but also as who they attempt to be. These techniques allow us to better understand each character, and tell us a lot about how they're feeling, their desires and emotions. Whether it is through the subtle changes in mise-en-scene or through the blatant differences in choreography or costume, Fosse's host of film techniques shapes the characters and our understanding of them. ...read more.

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