Analysis of Film Imitation of Life

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The film Imitation of Life

The film imitation of life was directed by Douglas Sirk and released on 17th April 1959. The film has examined the theme of conflict within a home and also emphasizes on the gender roles. Appearance is, however, the central theme in the play. The film is about a woman, Sarah Jane, who chooses career over marriage and in the end finds herself empty and also suffered from a broken family.

People started mistreating Sarah Jane on realizing that she is a child of a black woman. Her white boyfriend started being aggressive and beat her up because of being black. Sarah Jane who was still a teenager finds herself being lured into a life that does not glorify God. Black people are also portrayed to be perfectly content to wait on their white employers who are generous. The two sisters in the film; white and black are seen to have very different hobbies.

Sarah Jane as a Victim and Heroine

Sarah Jane is seen to be both a victim and a heroine, unlike her mother who has accepted the fate as dictated by the society. Sarah Jane is seen to challenge the status quo and decides to pursue the world all for herself. In the play, Turner is seen to be staying alone with her daughter, Susie. Lora employs Annie to be her maid. Annie brings Sarah Jane, her daughter who was light skinned along with her. In the end, Lora becomes successful and takes care of both girls and Annie. Sarah Jane pretends to be white but she always becomes frustrated when her mother, who was some dark-skinned shows up. Generally, the themes portrayed in the film are love, death, social standing, heartbreak and loose morals.

Racism in 1950s America

The film accurately portrays the America of the 1950s. The film is about how racism that was present in America in the 1950s played a great role in denying the African American people the life that white people almost took for granted. It was a taboo at that time for White Americans to either date or marry Black Americans. The civil right movement was on pace but the Americans seemed to be taking longer to accept change. Anti-miscegenation laws were in existence until the 1960s. In the movie, Sarah June desires to be white not because being white seems to be prettier than being black but because life can be better if you are white compared to when a person is black. Racism is also portrayed when Sarah’s roommate assumes that Annie is a maid and also when Lora confesses that she had no idea that Annie had quite a good number of friends. Sarah Jane’s self-loathing at being African American and her mother being black leads her into a life of imitation as she had to estrange herself from Annie so as to avoid suffering from discrimination.

Filmmaking Techniques in the Film

The sources that were used are documentary. We can see the film has almost everything in excessive. The colors are used to indicate the characters’ emotional state. The music used is suitable as it clearly indicates an emotional state of the characters. The quiet sadness infused in the movie is an indication of the social divisions that exist in the life of the Americans. The hotel room scene had shots constructed carefully as a sign of love and tension that existed between Sarah Jane and her mother Annie. The shots are 17 in total. Early in the scene, the two girls are seen to be playing with dolls. Susie give Sara Jane a black doll but she instead tosses it on the ground and demands to be given the white doll. The facial expressions of Annie and Sarah Jane, their body language and the emotion are used to draw the spectators closer. The two are seen to show affection for one another though only in private. Sarah Jane is seen denying her mother in public. The scene used at this point creates both a sad and a gloomy atmosphere. The color grey, dim lighting and an environment that is small enclosed are all used to direct the attention of the spectators and make them focus on the characters and the performance. The make- up and the hair that was used between Sara and her mother Annie are a symbol of the differences between the two opposite worlds which are the whites and the blacks.

Social Commentary and Reflection of the Era

The film imitation of life was played at a time when racism was at the peak in America. That was in the 1950s. The subject of racism was considered to be a taboo. The drama was, therefore, a way from making such topics discussable. The film has successfully portrayed the social issues of ethnicity and racism that were part of the historical identity of the United States at the time. The director addressed the issues in a straightforward manner.

The Story and its Implications

The causation of the film is a person. The film is a story of two single mothers, one black, and another one white. They developed friendship and even became business partners. The women, however, both suffered from a heartbreak which was as a result of their daughters. The idea of the film came into Hurst’s mind when he traveled with black author Zora Neale Hurston and encountered racism. The story was however not remotely based on any of their lives.

Reflections of Inequality and Prejudice

The film has successfully reflected the era in which it was released. In the movie, Lora and Annie are seen behaving as though they are close friends, there is, however, the ever-present reality of their inequality. One of them receives glory and the attention while another one is toiling in the shadows. The scene used in the film is symptomatic and it reflects the attitudes of the society and the prejudice against the blacks that existed in the 1950s. The film shows a picture on how the black was defined through the skin color. In addition, when Sarah Jane was humiliated at the school and made to feel inferior and also when she was bitten by the boyfriend, no one condemned the act but instead talked about how Sarah Jane tells people that she is white.

Social Criticism and Themes

In general, the film is a piece of social criticism that affects both Whites and the Blacks. The film has successfully made the racism that was in existence be known to the whole world. The film also educates people on how daughters and even sons should not treat their parents. The film further elaborates the friendship and loyalty aspect. Friends should always be loyal to each other no matter the consequences. In addition, the film reflects on the gender violence and the vice encourages people to respect each other in marriage and not assault one another.

September 25, 2023




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Film Analysis

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