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American Beauty

.. Angela’s moves and Lester’s thoughts in this scene. The scene begins with Jane, Angela, and the other cheerleaders dancing to a wordless version of On Broadway. This is parallel diegetic sound because it relates to what can be seen on screen. The usage of this song is important to the theme of this movie. Lester is about to embark on a mission to be free.

Lester is going to pursue happiness. In the same way, On Broadway is about pursuing a new experience. On Broadway speaks about coming to New York and being taken aback by all the lights and attractiveness of the city. In the same manner, Lester is about to be taken aback by an American beauty, Angela. Further in the scene, through shot-reverse-shot fashion, only Angela and Lester are in the frame (they are shown separately); the song On Broadway and the crowd cannot be heard.

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This is an example of contrapuntal sound. Contrapuntal sound involves muting sound beyond what one would normally hear if he/she were in that scene. Using this devise adds to the audience understanding the amount of attention that Lester is giving Angela. Lester, in his fantasy, is so infatuated with Angela that it appears that he can zone-out all the other tremendous noise occurring during a basketball game. During Lester’s fantasy, as Angela is dancing in an extremely erotic manner, touching her body all over, a slow and erotic song begins to play.

The song has a romantic and Latin beat to it that intensifies the mood from the audience’s perspective; providing clues as to what Lester’s intentions are with Angela. This is an example of non-diegetic sound. It is sound that does not have its source in the image. The second scene of interest occurs when Lester’s erotic dreams are about to become reality. Lester and Angela are in his house.

Lester has confessed to Angela that he wanted her since the first time he laid eyes upon her. The scene begins with Lester laying Angela down on a couch so he could have sex with her. This scene is essential because Angela and her virginity is for the taking, but Lester comes to a realization and refuses to have sex. Lester transforms once again, from the teenage rebel he had become, back to the man he was. He came to understand, as most boys do when they become mature men, that sex is not the key element to happiness. Lester did want his past back.

However, he wanted back the past that included the family he had lost. Composition and camera movement are used in this scene. As the scene begins, Lester has Angela and is laying her down on the couch. This is a dynamic shot with downward movement. It is dynamic because there is movement within a fixed frame. The downward movement implies an action that is not positive, such as Lester having sex with a teenager.

Furthermore, the downward movement implies something lost, such as Angela’s virginity and innocence. If they have sex, both of those will be lost forever. This shot is also a canted shot. It is a canted shot because Angela appears at a 45 degree angle in the frame. This suggest that things are bizarre and that Angela’s point of view is slanted.

A bizarre sex act is about to occur, and Angela is inexperienced, and doesn’t know the first thing about why she should be having sex. As the scene continues, the camera pans from left to right and right to left following Lester’s hands as they go up and down Angela’s body. The camera movement intensifies the erotic feeling in the audience. The camera then moves to a dynamic crane shot , showing Lester’s hands unbuttoning Angela’s blouse. That shot is then followed by shot-reverse shot of Angela and Lester looking at one another.

Angela, is given the low angle, looking-up at Lester, which implies that Lester is in control. This complements the idea that society considers it a macho action for the man to be in control. Still thinking under the mentality of a hormone-crazed teen, Lester feels good. It is important to note that Lester and Angela are not shown in the same shot during these actions. This implies disunity and an ironic separation because they are about to engage in the most intimate activity two humans can share with one another.

It is also important to note, that during the crane shots, Angela is consistently given the higher position in the frame. This implies that she is pure and innocent because usually good elements are given the higher position over bad elements (such as heaven being in the sky and hell down under). As Lester is prepared to begin the sex act, Angela reveals that she is a virgin. It is at this point that Lester realizes what he is doing and stops. This shot is a dynamic shot with a crane.

It is as if, by some divine intervention, Lester came to realize the error of his ways before it was too late. The scene concludes with a dynamic shot of Lester apologizing to Angela and, for the first time in this scene, they are scene in the same frame. This time, Lester is given the higher position in the frame. This symbolizes that he has come to a realization and is wise. The usage of lighting in this scene implies many symbolic meanings. Throughout the entire scene Angela is shot with light.

For example, when the scene begins, Angela is laid down by Lester on a couch. Angela is wearing a white blouse, the couch she is lying on is white, and the light from outside is dimly shining on her, emphasizing the fact that she is wearing white. The light and the color white represent purity: Angela is a virgin. On the other hand, Lester is shown with even less light. As the camera follows his hands erotically going up and down Angela’s body; Lester’s hands are given the least amount light possible in order to emphasize the impurity aspect of what he is doing.

The lighting in this scene is low contrast and low key. It is low contrast because the light used was dim and was rather gray. This implies a sense of mystery because the audience knows that Carolyn is on the way to the house to kill Lester. Also, the audience is unsure if Lester is going to go through with having sex with Angela. It is low key because both Angela’s and Lester’s shadows can be seen.

Editing is very significant in this scene. Decoupage is used throughout this scene. Decoupage implies that there will be fast-paced cutting. This is absolutely necessary in this scene in order to add to the excitement of the scene. Angela and Lester are at the point of no return. It is not clear what is going to happen. Fast paced cutting accelerates the speed of the scene, as almost to provide the audience with excitement. In this case, the kind of excitement that a teenage boy, or Lester, in this case, would feel before having sex. However, unlike the previous scene, this scene uses an ellipsis. This takes place when Lester is rubbing his hands around Angela’s thighs.

The scene cuts to Jane and Ricky. Both of them are about to run away to New York. The ellipsis occurs to show the audience what has caused Jane to do this. Lester never paid attention to Jane. Instead, he focused on her friend. All Jane wanted was attention from her dad, but Lester was preoccupied with being irresponsible and chasing a girl. The scene then switches back to Angela and Lester.

It is important to note that Angela and Lester are never shot in the same frame while sex is still a possibility between the both of them. Instead, they are shot in a shot-reverse-shot fashion. When Lester realizes the error he has made, both of them are shot in the same frame as a two-shot showing unity and resolution over the dilemma. Sound is used heavily in this scene. As the scene begins non-diegetic sound is used. This sound has no source in the image.

The sound is music played by a piano and chimes. The music gives the audience a sense of the erotica that is occurring on the screen between Angela and Lester. It also serves a connector to Lester’s fantasies. Whenever, Lester fantasizes, an erotic song is used. This time, his fantasy is about to come true. The music comes to an abrupt end when Angela reveals that she is a virgin.

Suddenly, Lester realizes that he cannot have sex with a teenager. The ending of the music symbolized the conclusion of that fantasy as well as marked his return to manhood. Throughout this scene, it was raining outside. If you were in the scene you would be able to hear raindrops. But not in this case. This exemplifies the usage of contrapuntal sound.

The raindrops were not heard during this scene. This gives the audience an idea of the amount of concentration that Lester was, once again, giving Angela. While Angela was around, nothing else mattered to Lester. Lester’s inability to deal with difficult situations, combined with his need for freedom and lack for responsibility, appear to have been too much. Unfortunately, he realized that too late.

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