Texts represent certain perspectives on belonging which challenge us to understand our own world. This is evident in the film “Strictly Ballroom” directed by Baz Luhrmann. The style of the film is “Red Curtain” cinema which means conveys the ballroom dancing world is surreal and artificial. This film explores what it means to belong or not belong to a well-defined group. This is presented through the opening sequence by showing how Scott, Fran and Doug don’t belong to the group of ballroom dancers. The director grew up in the world of ballroom competitions.
Luhrmann’s purpose was to be able to tell a story in his own particular way, “telling our own stories in our own way that is what the film is about for me”. The opening scenes explore aspects of not belonging and no being accepted. The ballroom dancing group demonstrates a veneer of belonging. The group itself is the same in appearance and behaviour but lacks emotional connection with other. They value tradition and authority. To belong to this world means sacrificing individual identity. A high angle shot is used to show the dancers competing in the competition, it also show the walls of the room they are dancing in.
This represents their confinement to the outside world as well as their conformity because they are all dancing the same steps. We understand that when people conform to a group they become restricted and separated from the rest of the world. The close ups of Barry Fife and the judges sitting above the dancers shows that they have more power. This symbolises that they have authority within the ballroom dancing group and are the people that enforce the tradition of strict rules and regulations.
From this we understand that when there is authority and power in a group there are rules to be followed that stop people from having an individual identity. The make-up of the women defines them as belonging to a certain group and symbolises their values, for example the women of the ballroom dancing wear bright and over the top coloured make-up. This represents them as being ‘fake’ due to being part of an artificial world. The idea of them all having exaggerated make-up tells us they all belong to the one group. From this we understand that to belong to certain groups you have must conform to their ways.
The idea of not belonging is also conveyed in the opening sequence. This is represented through peoples’ individual choices and the exclusion of those who do not fit in. Scott Hastings is the protagonist in the film and as an individual he chooses not to belong. He chooses to dance his own steps, meaning he doesn’t conform and therefore does not belong. Scott shows rebellion in the first scenes where he challenges the authority by breaking the rules. He does this because he is looking for his own identity away from the group. The close up of Scott’s shoes when he dances show he is about to dance his own way.
This demonstrates his desire for freedom and individual identity as well as his rebellion against a restrictive type of belonging. This gives us the understanding that when people wish to find their own identity they rebel and makes choices which can lead to exclusion. Scott’s costume is black pants and a white singlet which is what he wears when he dances his own steps. This indicates his difference to the group and the authenticity of his motivation as he attempts to create his own identity. Lighting affects the mood in the film and Scott is often shown in close ups with low key lighting which is more natural.
In the scene where he dances in and out of the spotlight indicates his developing sense of independence from the group. Fran and Doug are two other characters who also do not belong to the ballroom dancing group. Fran is excluded because of her different attitudes to the others. Her costume is plain and simple. She wears a long T-shirt and black tights, large glasses and no make-up. This is contrasted to the other women who wear a lot of bright make-up making them look false whereas Fran appears more natural and this makes her isolated from the group. Doug first appears as a dull man on the outside of the group.
However, in these scenes we find out he also dances his own steps in the secrecy of the studio. He dances in the shadow and a single spotlight and quirky music which gives mystery and difference to his dancing. We are positioned to understand that not belonging can be caused by having different attitudes and values or it can be cause voluntary by not conforming to the rules. From the film’s opening sequence we learn that sometimes to belong to a group you have to lose your individual identity. If you rebel against conformity to a group it can result in isolation. You can also be excluded from a group due to different attitudes and values.
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