Monday, May 20, 2013
Strictly Ballroom Analytical Response Plan
You have been invited to speak at the book launch of a new collection of texts entitled Belonging in our Society.
In your speech, explain and assess the ways in which belonging is represented in the texts in the collection.
In your answer, refer to your prescribed text and at least ONE other related text of your choosing.
Texts: Strictly Ballroom and 'Slow Cycle'
‘Slow cycle’ is a short story written by Nerida Wayland. The extract is used here as a related text.]
Analytical response plan
People long to be together, to spend time with one another and to connect to other human beings. Sometimes this longing is so strong that it prevents us from exploring our own desires and from fulfilling our own dreams. Our need to belong can also force us to compromise our own values and adhere to expected codes of behaviour. So what do you do? These issues of rebellion and belonging are poignantly explored in Baz Luhrmann’s film ‘Strictly Ballroom’, an Australian classic that humorously pokes fun at the frivolous world of ballroom dancing to highlight the values of self-belief and self-will, and the difficulties in expressing these in an oppressive society. The extract from Nerida Wayland’s ‘Slow cycle’ also explores the values of identity and self-expression and their effect on an individual’s ability to belong in a meaningful way in marriage. To me, ‘Strictly Ballroom’ and ‘Slow cycle’ are worthy additions to ‘Belonging in our Society’ because they explore the emotional impact of rebellion and its effect on belonging in society.
First body paragraph
‘Strictly Ballroom’ successfully creates humour by satirising aspects of the ballroom dancing world, showing the restrictions placed on the individual’s desire for self-expression and individuality.
Fantasy motifs—e.g. red curtain, dancing silhouettes—are used to depict the ballroom dancing world as ‘unreal’.
The world of ballroom dancing is depicted as colourful and glamorous.
Interviews contain exaggerated comments and fear of ‘new steps’.
‘I kept asking myself, “Why?”’
’Did I fail him as a mother?’
Second body paragraph
The value of self-belief in ‘Strictly Ballroom’ is shown through the realistic representation of dancing within the Spanish community, in contrast to the exaggerated, cartoon-like images of the ballroom dancing world, which is dominated by flashy costumes, wailing women and insincerity.
Scott is challenged by Rico to dance the paso doble and is laughed at for the way he dances.
Rico dances with passion and deliberation.
Ya Ya shows Scott where to feel the rhythm.
The Spanish community teaches Scott the value of dancing from the heart.
Scott dances freely, expressing himself.
‘What is so funny about the way I dance?’
Third body paragraph
Rebellion against expected ways of belonging is also explored in the extract from ‘Slow cycle’ as the persona leaves her husband to travel through Morocco in a quest for identity.
There is a comparison between the postcard of the Australian outback and the Moroccan landscape.
Visual images of the Moroccan sun, wind and desert highlight the persona’s isolation and confusion.
The persona feels an inability to connect with and belong to her new environment.
A lack of understanding between the husband and wife leads to separation.
‘setting sun’, ‘chilling night winds’, ‘impending desert’
‘But why Morocco?’/‘Why not?’
As individuals, we struggle against the oppression of others who insist we blindly follow expected ways of behaving and belonging. Making a decision to rebel against expected ways of being can have a significant emotional impact on an individual’s sense of self. However, when we objectively observe the influences in our lives, we are better able to decide a course of action that is most suited to our personal judgments and aspirations. When we are comfortable with our choices we have a better chance of belonging in a meaningful manner to a group, community or society. In this collection ‘Belonging in our Society’, therefore, ‘Strictly Ballroom’ and the extract from ‘Slow cycle’ successfully address the implications of rebellion and self-expression on an individual’s ability to comfortably belong while maintaining identity.
‘Strictly Ballroom’ successfully creates humour by satirising aspects of the ballroom dancing world, showing the restrictions placed on the individual’s desire for self-expression and individuality. The opening scene highlights a fantasy world, depicting silhouettes of ballroom dancers gracefully dancing to the famous waltz, ‘The Blue Danube’, followed by images of the glitzy and glamorous dancers in their brilliant costumes. It is a world the audience is set up to admire: we would all would like to belong to it. Or would we? The crosscutting to the interviews at the beginning of the film surprises the audience, sending up the content of the interview and the exaggerated seriousness of the characters’ approach to ballroom dancing. The interviews describe the events of the recent Southern District Waratah Championships, where Scott Hastings dared to express his individuality through unconventional dance steps. A tone of mock tragedy is expressed through Shirley’s lament, ‘I kept asking myself, “Why?” … Did I fail him as a mother?’ The word ‘tragedy’ makes the audience laugh at her exaggeration. The open framing here as Scott dances out of the shot conveys the sense of rebellion, juxtaposing the image with the closed framing of the ‘strictly ballroom’ waltz in the scene. By now we see the original images of the dancing silhouettes as superficial. This is not a world we would want to belong to, as it is fraught with anxiety and fear of self-expression.
The value of self-belief in ‘Strictly Ballroom’ is shown through the realistic representation of dancing within the Spanish community, in contrast to the exaggerated, cartoon-like images of the ballroom dancing world, which is dominated by flashy costumes, wailing women and insincerity. Through Fran and her Spanish culture, Scott is transformed as he learns the value of dancing from his heart, and the true spirit of family and belonging. To depict the backyard of the Toledo Milk Bar, Fran’s home, Luhrmann uses low-key lighting and creates a romantic, warm and inviting atmosphere. When Rico challenges Scott to dance the paso doble, Scott is ridiculed for not dancing from the heart and this separates him from the group. Close-ups of people laughing are juxtaposed with long shots of Fran and Scott dancing, showing that they are laughing at the way he dances. The medium shots between Scott and Rico accentuate Scott’s humiliation and highlight Scott’s folly as Scott asks, ‘What is so funny?’ Rico rises from his chair and begins to dance with deliberate steps and obvious passion, which is shown through a combination of medium and long shots intermingled with close-ups of his spinning feet. Close-ups of Scott’s softly lit face show his sense of enlightenment and desire to connect with the values of the Spanish community. Ya Ya taps Scott’s gut and chest, mimicking the rhythm of the heartbeat, illustrating Scott’s realisation of where the real rhythm should come from. When he dances again, he is seen twirling continuously as the camera pans up from his feet. Flecks of light shine on him while he spins in complete abandonment, celebrating his liberation and newfound sense of belonging.
Rebellion against expected ways of belonging is also explored in the extract from ‘Slow cycle’ as the persona leaves her husband to travel through Morocco in a quest for identity. Marriage is integral to how we live in society, making an exploration of the barriers to an effective relationship worthy of discussion and incorporation into ‘Belonging in our Society’. The persona compares her home in Australia to Morocco through the image of the Australian outback postcards. The visual image of the Moroccan ‘setting sun’, an image of beauty, is juxtaposed with the images of ‘chilling night winds’ and ‘impending desert’, which suggest fear and loneliness. This highlights the persona’s isolation and confusion in the absence of security and belonging. The persona is uncertain about her decision to leave the marriage and travel on her own. This is further developed through the persona’s unsuccessful attempt to connect with her new environment and the young boy on the roadside, which she compares to her struggle to focus on things that matter in her marriage. The short, sharp dialogue between the persona and her husband (‘But why Morocco?’/‘Why not?’) illustrates the strain on the relationship and their inability to communicate, hampering their sense of belonging together. The persona has separated from her husband to re-establish her sense of identity, something she has not been able to do within the marriage.