American Beauty

Short Summary: American Beauty is an operative about a man who is sexually frustrated in his mid-life crisis as he finds romantic interest in his daughter’s best friend. The protagonist, Lester, has this “epiphany” about how stagnant his life has become with his wife and he begins to fantasize new love interests to indulge in freshness and excitement in his life through a series of events which lead him to ultimate death.


Imagery: If you watch the opening title sequence without sound, it kind of makes you feel eerie and that it might be the opening to a romantic horror film of some sort. The imagery is absolutely incredible in the artistic sense because there is so much vibrancy and coldness all at once that it makes you think that this is going to be somewhat of a scary film. From the very first few seconds, you can tell that the director of the film wanted to focus on raw emotion and some sort of fantasy world. In terms of imagery, the central recurring image is a rose. It appears more than 5 times throughout the title sequence, which symbolizes romance. The rose is also heavily saturated. It is so bright that it contrasts with the background colors in each scene, so it is evident that the color red was intended to stand out. Other signs of imagery include cool tones of blue to set a more somber mood in contrast to the extreme red color we see in the roses, a young blonde girl laying naked on a bed of rose petals as well as a gun that is shown twice in the title sequence. All of this is a recipe for some intense emotions that are inevitably going to pan out throughout the movie. After researching about the movie and watching the title sequence over, I kind of took the blue toned environment as the protagonist’s “stagnant” life, and the roses and red imagery as his fixated fascination with a whirlwind romance at this time of his life.

Movement: There is a very notable sequence of movement that is consistent throughout the title sequence of American Beauty. Parallel to the music which has a slow and steady beat, the scenes all had a fluid transition, which was all also slowed down a bit to make each scene much more “intimate”. There were no quick-cuts in typography (the text was mostly at the bottom and did not take attention away from the scenes that were shown) and the jumpiest moment of the sequence was when the main character threw a plate at the wall but that cut was so short that by the end of the video I almost forgot that it had happened. The things that stood out to me the most in terms of the movement were the roses throughout the video which were moving in slow motion, slowly growing more and more, and the pedals flowing out towards the screen, making it seem as though there is a new relationship that is about to bloom. There is a scene where a gun is fired and even that is in slow motion. The directors of this film were not trying to create a trailer that had anyone on their toes in suspense. Because of the way that the characters, objects, and text moved, it seemed as though the directors wanted to make the audience feel as though they could emerge themselves into this story and somehow relate to the protagonist’s fantasies.


Sound: As I mentioned earlier in my short summary of American Beauty, if the sound were to be turned off, this movie would seem kind of horrific, but once you listen to the music that is accompanied by this movie sequence, you can tell that it is not meant to be scary, even though there is a firing gun in the middle of the clip. That shot is almost underwhelming and the music helped set the mood for the later clips that came with the scenes that included red. The steady drumbeat and percussion throughout this video make it seem like the story that is about to be told will be vulnerable and romantic in its own way. When I hear music like this, I find it almost sensual and calm, which is interesting because the protagonist’s thoughts are a bit extreme since he does gain interest in his young daughter’s friend. The music helps illustrate the protagonist’s willingness to feel young and amorous again. Without steady music, this mood and analyzation would not have been established.

Use of Lighting: I had mentioned previously under my description of American Beauty’s imagery that there were cool tones used as well as very bright reds. To compliment that, the entire title sequence is shown in dimmed light and darker situations. For example, in the clip with the girl who is ushering rose petals out of her chest, it looks like she’s standing in a gymnasium with half of the lights off. That scene is followed by clips of lightning which are shown late at night, which is then followed by a clip where the main character is laying on a bed covered with rose petals..with dimmed lighting. I think this was made to make the movie have more of a sexual appeal with all activities and environments signifying late nights.