Belonging - Stricly Ballroom Essay

Belonging relates to personal and social identity which can involve experiences, relationships as well as attitudes and values. There are many concepts of belonging shown in the film Strictly Ballroom, directed by Baz Luhrmannn; one of them is that attitudes towards belonging change over time. This is shown through many of the characters, mainly through Scott and Fran. Their attitudes towards belonging change as a result of the rules and regulations of the ballroom federation.

In the children’s picture book A Bit of Company written by — and illustrated by – explores the idea that an individual’s sense of belonging is either helped or hindered by their family and friends. Christopher’s mother is so busy with her triplets, that she is ignoring Christopher resulting in him feeling unimportant and excluded. In the visual image The Arrival from Shaun Tan reveals that migrants often feel a loss of identity and an absence of belonging. The film strictly Ballroom directed by Baz Luhrmann shows that it takes great courage for an individual to be true to their natural self and identity.

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Scott lives in a world of fierce pressure and competition, where to win he must adhere to the rules of others, such as Barry Fife. It is a world in which individuality and creativity are surrendered in the desire to win. Barry Fife is an important character as he is the ‘force’ behind the federation of ballroom dancing. In one scene, Barry is lit from behind and his face is in shadow to heighten the idea that he is a sinister character. When Barry says ‘win’ the camera slams into the close-up of his mouth.

We get a sense of Barry’s absolute power in the world of ballroom, and of the importance of winning to him and others in his world. Liz has now left Scott and they are no longer dance partners. Liz states “I’m not dancing with you, until you dance like your suppose to! ” this shows how constricting the rules of competitive ballroom dancing are and how powerful the will to win is for those immersed in this world. Fran offers to dance Scott his steps, he rejects her offer at first, but after Fran calls his a ‘gutless wonder’ and states that ‘A life lived in fear is a life half lived’ he gives her the chance.

A montage is used from this point in the film to the Pan pacific’s to show what is happening over a long period of time in a very short way. In this montage, we see a close up of Shirley’s hand crossing off dates on the calendar and we then see the many dance auditions for Scott’s new partner in between scenes of Scott practising with Fran. Fran comes from a migrant family, that has moved to Australia and she has a strong cultural commitment to her family and religion. You can see that Fran’s family does not come from wealth from the location of their home, on the railway tracks and the rubbish surrounding her house.

There is a continual use of colour as symbolism. Initially Fran is portrayed as ‘just Fran’ – kind, awkward and homely. Her unadorned plainness is intended to contrast with the glamorous and extravagant world of competitive ballroom dancing. Fran is seen in the beginning of the Film wearing a shapeless old white t-shirt, hair a mess, blotchy skin and frizzy hair. Her transformation into a professional dancer is shown by the use of colour and attire. Throughout Fran’s transition we seen more and more of red and tighter more flattering clothes.

A conversation between Barry, Les and Scott is shot in a kitchen. As meat in thrown around by a casual cook, Luhrmann seems to be implying that Barry treats the dancers in the federation like a piece of meat. Similarly in ‘A bit of Company’ written by * illustrated by * shows that your sense of belonging and importance can me misled. This is shown through Christopher and his family. His mother is so busy with her triplets she did not spend any time with him, this resulting in Christopher feeling unimportant and feels he doesn’t belong.

Meanwhile, Christophers neighbour Molly is also very lonely and always wished Christopher would come around and keep her company. You may belong to your family, but you may feel as if they don’t support and care about your feelings and desires. This is shown in A Bit of Company as Christopher does belong to his family but feels unimportant and excluded. He wished to belong to someone that will pay attention to him and love him. His neglect resulted in him wanting to “scream… and Scream… and SCREAM!! ’.

This is a language technique using repetition and punctuation is used to emphasise Christopher’s frustration. In the first spread, the illustrator has used visual techniques to symbolise the state of relationships within Christopher’s family. The mother and three brothers are seen in the far left hand side of the image, crowded and squished into a dark room. Christopher is seen by the door, looking outside with shadows behind him, this showing he is feeling excluded and separate from his mother and two brothers and is searching for something.

In spread 3, the illustrator again, has used visual techniques. He uses vectors to draw your attention from anywhere, to Molly face to emphasise her expression and fear. In the visual image The Arrival from Shaun Tan is a dark image of a group of crowded migrants on a ship, looking very sad and dull. Migrants often feel a loss of identity and absence of belonging. This is shown in the Image as although these people seem to belong to together as a group of migrants, they also appear to be disengaged and separate from each other as they are lost in their own thoughts.

Migrants often feel great sadness when moving to another country. This is shown in the image as the people are sitting, quietly with their heads down. The blankets are wrapped tightly around them against the cold, suggesting the harsh conditions they must have endured and also their need to protect themselves as individuals. The body of the ship in the background suggests that the people are over whelmed by the transition. People in the background are shaded in as faceless people, which highlight the large number of unknown migrant people who seem to have no sense of direction or identity.


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