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Carolyn Burnham In American Beauty Essay

1045 words - 4 pages

Carolyn Burnham in American Beauty

Directed by Sam Mendes in 1999, 'American Beauty' is set in a
seemingly typical suburban neighbourhood that gives an in depth look
beneath the surface. An ordinary, financially well-to-do family is
followed through the point of view of the father (Kevin Spacey). He
narrates his life and lets the audience in on all of his quirks, flaws
and limitations, as well as those of his wife Carolyn (Annette Bening)
and his daughter (Thora Birch). The film exemplifies the idea of
achieving the 'American Dream' - not necessarily to reach your
ultimate goal in life but to portray the image of reaching that goal.
In addition, the film won 5 Oscars, including best picture and was
praised for the directors use of imagery and editing.

Carolyn Burnham, played by Annette Being, portrays a dynamic character
in the film. Her key traits help us to understand how her personality
works. In this particular extract of the film we learn about Carolyn's
character from the use of language, camera shots, music, physical and
vocal expressions and other presentational devices. 'Mis en Scene' is
also used in this particular scene and is particularly effective as it
enables the audience to understand how Carolyn interacts with the
objects around her and this reveals more about her personality.

The shot opens with Carolyn putting up a 'for sale' sign outside a
property she is trying to sell. Here she is organised, prepared and
optimistic. She then glances to a house across the road where a
bigger, bolder sign is. Her facial expression immediately changes to
self-doubt, as she realises she has competition. She then takes
control of herself and repeats 'I will sell this house today' a
numerous amount of times. This shows that she is determined to sell
the property and believes that the sale will make her more successful.

The use of language informs the audience about Carolyn's character,
and her reactions towards others ( In this particular scene, her
clients). When speaking to her clients, she is upbeat, determined and
positive ' This kitchen is a dream for any cook, can't you just feel
the positive energy in the room?" However, the clients disapprove and
question her selling techniques 'the ad says the pool is lagoon-like,
there is nothing lagoon like about it. This is cement hole'. In this
particular shot she begins to become sarcastic and desperate. Her tone
of voice immediately changes when the clients show they're not
impressed with the property. In shot 25, her body language changes
from being open and relaxed to desperate and sarcastic, 'What do you
call this, is THIS not a plant!' Here she is shown to be desperate,
...

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