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This analysis focuses on the sequence where Janie and her friend Angela bumped into her parents at the parking lot. Her parents were congratulating her for the previous performance dance that had had just happened in the preceding shots. In this sequence, her father, Lester seems to be a little nervous and sexually attracted to Angela based on the short conversation they had. The director uses various editing and cinematographic techniques to bring out the lustful tendency that Lester had towards Angela in this sequence.
The director uses a temporal relationship editing dimension in throughout this sequence. He has lengthened most of the scenes involving the conversation between Angela and Lester, and also when Angela is talking to Janie about her father. The director uses these dimensions to enhance the mood of this sequence and bring out the lustful thoughts or feelings that Lester had towards Janie. The repeated stares and stammering that Lester exhibited in these scenes made Angela understand that he was sexually attracted towards immediately.
This is the first scene in this sequence. The scene shows Janie and Angela approaching the parking lot after they had just concluded their performance in the school hall. The camera takes an eye-level angle showing that the characters are at the same level with their audience. The images in the scene are of the same size with a slightly longer focal length indicating that there was no need for an image to stand out to be noticed. The images, however, have high-key lighting to bring out the beauty of the two characters. The lighting plan for this scene would be as demonstrated in the drawing below;
This is the second scene where Lester is congratulating his daughter for the performance they had just presented in the preceding scenes. He looks so proud that Janie did so well. This is evidenced in how he looks at her from the camera’s bird-eye angle. The focal length in the scene is shorter to bring out the look Lester gave his daughter. The camera is also static as Lester talks to focus on his face more clearly. The scene demonstrates how a proud father talks to his daughter. The lighting plan for this scene would be as demonstrated in the drawing below;
The camera in the third shot sharply focuses on Lester’s face as he lustful stares at Angela as Janie introduces her to them. This shot demonstrates a close-up capture with the camera at eye-level angle. The camera is also static on Lester’s face to help audience read his body language. The background and other images around have been blurred by the camera to ensure that Lester’s image stand out to make his reaction noticeable as he was being introduced to Angela. The lighting plan for this scene would be as demonstrated in the drawing below;
This is the fourth shot in the sequence. The scene is shot from a high -level angle focusing on Angela and Lester. The shot features a highlighting key where the four characters in the shot are evenly illuminated with some conspicuous shadows on the background. This shot gives insights to the audience on what is going on the minds of Lester and Angela who are staring at each clearly ignoring Carolyn who is addressing her daughter. The lighting plan for this scene would be as demonstrated in the drawing below;
This is the fifth shot of the scene. It’s a close-up shot with an eye-level angle focusing on Lester’s face as he explains to Angela why Janie doesn’t have a car yet. The shot sharply focuses on Lester’s facial expression which shows nervousness and vulnerability to Angela’s seductive gestures as they converse. The scene is characterized by high contrast, where the camera sharply focuses on Lester’s face and blackness the background to help the audience focus their attention to his face. The director is trying to help the audience to preempt how the interaction between Lester and Angela would end. The lighting plan for this scene would be as demonstrated in the drawing below;
This scene shows Angela reacting to her fathers “inappropriate” behavior as he talked to Angela. The scene was captured in an extreme close-up at an eye-level angle with the camera focusing at her eyes and mouth. The light key shows w high contrast with a blurred background to clearly focus on Janie’s body language. In the scene, she looks annoyed with her father’s lustful gesture as he talked to her friend Angela. The lighting plan for this scene would be as demonstrated in the drawing below;
This is the seventh shot of the scene which was also captured at an extreme close-up at a low-level angle with the camera looking at her from slightly below her face. This shot also focuses on Angela’s facial expression demonstrating how she is consciously seducing her friend’s father after she realizes he was interested in her. The lighting plan for this scene would be as demonstrated in the drawing below;
The last shot shows Angela responding to Janie about what she thinks about her father. The image is captured at an eye-level angle with a short-focal point. The scene uses a low key lighting where Angela’s face is sharply lit while the rest of the image is blackened. This feature helps the audience to read Angela’s body language more clearly. The lighting plan for this scene would be as demonstrated in the drawing below;
The most commonly used cinematographic technique in most of the scenes in this particular sequence include a close-up focus with an eye-level camera angle and a high-key lighting. This cinematography type contributes to making the story more appealing and comical to the audience. The mise-en-scene of the scenes of this sequence, on the other hand, describe a plot-type of events that is common in the modern-day practical life. The plot brings out the challenges that most married couples with grown-up kids have to experience every day. The two techniques jointly piece tools and features together that make the storyline more practical, appealing, and representative of what happens in real life.
The sound design in this sequence is also quite unique compared to other sequences. First, most of the scenes in this sequence are characterized by dialogue and some soothing natural sound in the atmosphere. The sounds make the film more authentic especially in communicating the feelings that the four characters in the cut had towards each other. There are no layers of sound added in this particular sequence. However, the sound of wind blowing in the atmosphere, for instance, helps in bringing out the natural setting of this film.
The script in this sequence tells a story of four characters, Lester, Carolyn, Janie and Angela who meet up at the parking lot immediately after the girls had presented a performance in the hall. Lester and Carolyn are happy to see the girls and they come towards them to congratulate them on their excellent performance. However, Lester presents himself in this scene as a sex-starved husband who was lustfully attracted to Angela’s beauty when he set his eyes on her. He was nervous throughout the conversation prompting both Angela and Janie to realize that there was something wrong.
At the beginning of this scene, the two girls walking side by side as they approached the parking lot unaware that Janie’s parents could be there waiting for them. The scene is characterized by an eye-level camera angle which is meant to bring the characters at the same level with the audience. At this level, the audience is able to identify the beautiful faces of the two characters in this shot. As they approached Janie’s parents in, her father seems to be so happy from the manner he looks at her as they congratulated her. The look on her father’s face, however, changes when she starts to introduce Angela to him. A close-up focus of the camera on his face shows that he was very nervous and lustful towards Angela throughout their short conversation.
Further into the conversation, Angela discovers that Lester was undeniably attracted to her. This is evident to how she seductively responds to his questions which makes Janie rather annoyed. She observes that her father was stammering throughout the conversation and seems to lack what to say especially after Carolyn left the scene. A close-up camera focus on his face demonstrates how much he had fallen in lust with Angela. He spends most of the time staring at her face throughout the scene. a scene captured at a high-level angle focusing on the four characters who have been lit evenly, shows Lester and Janie staring at each other’s direction even when Carolyn’s attention is entirely on her daughter Janie congratulating her on the excellent performance they did a few minutes ago.
When Carolyn leaves the scene leaving the three characters, the dominating camera focus is a close-up with the camera rolling at an eye-level angle focusing on the face of each of the three characters as they speak. In the most of the remaining scenes, the faces of the characters are sharply lit and the background blurred to ensure the audience focuses on the particular face of each character to identify their body language as they speak. This scene starts by focusing on Lester who happened to talk most of the time addressing Angela. The scene demonstrates clearly how Lester has been attracted to Angela such that he couldn’t get his eyes off her.
In one incident, Janie gets a little pissed by her father’s weird behavior and a close-up focus shows how her eyes firmly looked at her father as she sternly ordered him to join Carolyn who was waiting in the car. The stern-harsh look from Janie made her father realize that she understood what he was trying to do with Angela prompting him to stammer a few words and left the duo. As he was leaving, the camera rolls down to Angela who was still seductively looking at Lester after she was fully aware that he was sex-starved and was so lustful towards her. The close-up camera focus on Angela’s face shows the seductive gestures and body language that she uses to further make Lester develop more interest in her.
After Lester leaves the duo, the camera continues to roll over Angela face at very close range to reveal her facial expressions as she explains to Janie that her parents seems not to have engaged in sex for a considerable amount of time. Her expression from the close-up eye-level angle camera focuses reveals that Angela too seemed interested in Lester since she finds him rather cute and observes that he is sex starved. This sequence in suspense as Angela tries to explain to Janie that her dad seems to be quite sex-hungry indicating that the two are likely to have a sexual encounter in further scenes.
In conclusion, this sequences used various cinematography techniques to describe the struggles that couples go through in a family. In this setting, Lester and Carolyn have been married for years and have a teenage daughter. However, their sexual life has been quite inactive prompting Lester to develop feelings towards a teenage girl who is the age of his daughter. The cast uses different techniques such as close-up focus with camera rolling at an eye-level angle to show the faces of each character and how they behave in their conversation towards each other. The director brings out a plot that is quite relevant in the modern-day world where grown-up men turn to teenage girls for sexual satisfaction when their sex lives with their legal partners becomes inactive. Lester and Angela in this sequence, therefore, demonstrates a typical sex hungry man and a young sexually attractive girl who fantasize about having a sexual relationship with a grown married man.
Mendes S. 1999. American Beauty. [Film] Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyJGnNFU5dc&list=PL7B08A44C4D74CF75&index=2>[Accessed 30 Sep. 2018].
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