Cinematic Techniques In The Film ‘American Beauty’ Essay

The 2000 film ‘American Beauty’ directed by Sam Menez, effectively contrasts the subtle beauty of life with the struggle of modern day stress and sadness caused by the materialism of modern Western Society. This is displayed excellently through symbolism, cinematic techniques and characterisation. The symbolism used includes the frequent use of the colour red and Ricky’s filming of beauty. Menez also employs a variety of Cinematic techniques such as camera shots and angles to explore the subtle beauty plus through the portrayal of characters particularly in the characters of both Lester and

Ricky. The film’s main protagonist, Lester, portrays stress and sadness through his somewhat self perpetuated imprisonment, within this he lives a mundane life of drudgery however is later self liberated and through this liberation Lester is then able to see all the subtle beauty contained within his life. In the beginning of the film Lester is quite a submissive character who somewhat attempts to play the stereotypical role that he believes he should.

He has a good job however his is under constant pressure to be successful with his job and also is under constant pressure to be a ‘good’ husband and father within his family through the portrayal of seeing Lester struggle through the pressure of his life the audience is able to perceive how unsatisfied Lester feels in his life. Lester’s life changes when he meets his daughter’s friend Angela who initiates Lester’s mission to become liberated through lust as Lester starts working out in an attempted to woo Angela however this drives change in all aspects of his life which is depicted by Lester resigning form his ob and also purchasing a new car without first consulting his wife.

This desire that Lester is pursuing is symbolized throughout his life through the use of the colour red. Particularly shown through Lester’s sexual fantasy sequences and also layered throughout the entire film in particular the car that Lester purchases is red. Through the colour red Lester finds true beauty he initially discovers it with Angela when he no longer lust’s for her but is able to see the innocent child that she is but finally observes true beauty in his death.

When Lester Dies he sees all of his memories flash before him and in the simple things he obverses he is able to see the true beauty in his life. Therefor towards the end of the movie Lester is able to then reject the notion of modern day Western stress and sadne This is similarly portrayed through the character of Ricky. The character of Ricky is able to see true beauty in Western Society and this is shown through his constant filming of “simple things” he sees in his everyday life which he finds beautiful.

He views the stereotypically “ordinary” Janey as beautiful and presents to her “the most beautiful thing I have ever filmed” which is footage of a plastic bag floating in the wind. It is quite incredible that Ricky perceives the simple beauty in life as he comes from a highly abusive home, where his father is controlling and physically abusive. Because of this, his mother is in a terrorized state, which the audience can conclude is due to the abusive conduct of Ricky’s father within the family setting.

However through all of this, Ricky manipulates his father quite well and also is able to live with contentment, as he doesn’t focus on the difficulties in his life (which would be understandable for someone in his position). Ricky and Lester both similarly reject modern day stress and sadness however significant events did not have to occur in Ricky’s life for him to epiphanise the subtle beauty within his life unlike the character of Lester. Menez purposefully implements the character of Ricky as he is a contrast to the other characters some of whom live a uch more excessive materialistic life.

As they give in to the consumer driven society which leads to there self demise and sees them giving in to modern day western stress and sadness in which they disregard true beauty. The cinematic techniques used in American Beauty explore the subtle beauty of life amid modern Western stress and sadness. Some keys scenes and camera angles include the scene which takes place at the dinner table after Lester quits his job and also the scene between Janey and Ricky in Ricky’s room.

In the scene at the dinner table after Lester quits his job there are arguments taking place amongst the family. Menez represents this dysfunction with camera angles as the camera does shifts close up to each of the family members singularly this portrays that the family are a family unit but are so isolated from each other. At the end of this scene we see the camera zoom out to show how far apart everyone is at the dinner table, which emphasises the point of emotional distance between them all and show how it is not an intimate setting.

On the contrary Ricky and Janey share a scene in Ricky’s room where the two of them are having in depth conversation in this scene the camera takes close ups of both the characters for extensive periods of time. This instates to the audience how they both are intimate and real with each and are able to see the subtle beauty within one another as apposed to the dinner scene where we see the family give into modern western stress and sadness.

American beauty is a brilliant film that explores subtle beauty of life amongst modern day stress and sadness. Menez uses his characters to explore this idea through contrast of the way they approach it in particular he uses Lester and Ricky to portray how people can discover subtle beauty in their lives. This concept is also portrayed with symbolism including the colour red for desire and also through Ricky’s filming of subtle beauty. Cinematic techniques of camera angles also reiterate this point.