American Beauty - American Dream

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American Beauty

The film American Beauty adopts many negative attitudes of the American society it depicts. These attitudes explore the nature of imprisonment, true beauty and materialism. Sam Mendes invites the viewer to look closer into the film by reflecting on these attitudes through a variety of techniques, which captivate the audience creating a masterpiece film.

A major attitude portrayed throughout the film is explored through imprisonment. Mendes explores imprisonment in the sense of a negative invisible constriction created by societal values and expectations, which blinds people from the important values in life. This is displayed through Lestor’s imprisonment and his eventual escape from confinement, in a ‘rights of passage’ journey. Throughout the film Lestor is subconsciously trapped behind jail cells which Mendes displays through setting, film techniques, and symbolism.  In the beginning of the film we can see the various jail cells Lestor is subject to. Firstly, in the shower scene we see Lestor trapped behind glass walls. This symbolic glass wall is again used by Mendes in the following scene where Lestor is again trapped behind the glass windows in the house, a boundary which is caused by the nature of his materialistic wife Carolyn. In the next scene we again see Lestor in another jail cell while he is sleeping in the car. He is unaware he is in the car or jail cell as he is sleeping, while we see, through a low angle perspective shot, the outside world through the car window. This is the world that Lestor has lost touch with. We again see the director deliberately use Lestor’s computer screen as another jail cell, with numbers written in a column format. This scene also supports the ‘cell’ symbol as a sticker on Lestor’s bored says ‘Look Closer’, which is an ironical statement which is directed to the viewers. We see the director continually employing this symbolic technique of ‘jail cells’ to examine Lestor’s imprisonment from realization of true happiness, through the various cell settings.

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The confusion and dissolution of Beauty is another negative attitude of the depicted American society. Through the video lens of Ricky Fitts the director explores as a filter to depict the nature of True Beauty in contrast to the false and blurred vision of beauty in the eyes of society.  We see the director, in the scene with Angela and Jane in Jane’s room, reflect on this contradiction of beauty. This scene is a microcosm of the film itself as Ricky zooms past Angela, who we think and also society depicts as being beautiful and sexy, into the ...

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