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american beauty

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American Beauty With close reference to the opening of the film American Beauty discuss the symbolic and technical codes used and explain how they relate to the American Dream. American Beauty was distributed by Dreamworks in 1999 and won 5 Oscars, including one for cinematography. It was based on a play written by Alan Ball, and was directed by Sam Mendes. It is about a suburbanite nuclear family that has gone super critical, superficial and materialistic. There are three people in the family, the father: Lester Burnham is played by Kevin Spacey. He is the narrator and leading character, a forty two year old married man, he earns �60, 000 a year as a writer for a magazine and is bored with his life. The wife and mother is called Carolyn and is played by Annette Benning. She is a false, cheerful, status-seeking perfectionist. The daughter is called Jane and is played by Thora Birtch. She is in her teens, self critical and typical adolescent. In the film, we see that Lester is bored with his life, Jane is unhappy with the way she looks and Carolyn is always trying to be perfect and trying to get Lester and Jane to be the same, she wants the family to live the 'American Dream'. The film begins with an arial view of the area where Lester lives, with Lester's voice in the background, almost as if he is looking down on it. ...read more.


We are then introduced to the homosexual neighbours, who are both called Jim. They have a dog called Titzy, who they treat like a child, they are like a family unit. The average American is very religious and would find homosexuality unacceptable, therefore Jim and Jim symbolise false. We then see a large depth of field shot. Lester is in the background, Carolyn and Jim are in the foreground. Lester is in the house and behaves like a child, it seems more perfect if he is inside. The camera the shows Jane looking on the internet at a breast enlargement website, this is symbolic of the American Dream, Americans are taught that if the aren't perfect they can buy perfection, and Jane is trying to buy the perfect body. The Burnham house represents the American Dream, it is a white house with blue shutters and a red door and roses, the colours of the American flag. The house is symmetrical, it is a 'perfect' house, however the house has negative associations, it is perfect outside but it is fake perfection, and inside the house is not perfect at all, as the behaviour of the family is false. We also see Carolyn in shadow when we see the house, which is symbolic, showing she casts a shadow in their lives. ...read more.


In the next shot we see some photographs of the family. In the individual black and white pictures they all look happy. In the colour picture of the family Carolyn is wearing red, Jane is dressed in white and Lester is in blue, the colours of the American flam symbolising the 'American Dream' and them as a family trying to live it. We then see a close up of white candles, red roses and blue napkins, symbolic of the 'American Dream' and them trying to pursue it by having the perfect family dinner. The camera moves slowly in this shot allowing us to 'Look Closer'. Then we see the family eating dinner, listening to 'elevator music', which seems cheap and false. Carolyn wants to create a perfect family dinner, but if we 'look closer' we see that none of them are actually happy. Lester starts to tell a story and when he realises no one is interested he says "You couldn't care less" showing that the dinner is not perfect. The technical and symbolic codes are very useful when watching the film, as they subconsciously enhance your knowledge and understanding of the situation in the film. They make the film more interesting to watch and lead us to a deeper understanding of the message 'Look Closer'. The codes tell us that the writer thinks that The 'American Dream' is unrealistic and is putting pressures on families and people to be something they are not. Frances Rogers, English, GCSE. ...read more.

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