Vision is a means of communicating an individual’s thoughts and feelings that convey senses of something immaterial, or in other words – Concepts. Visions are perceived differently by individuals; they often reflect different values, attitudes and emotions that are shaped by experiences of individuals or social groups to express or react to their perceptions of worlds they belong to. In the satirical film ‘Strictly Ballroom’ directed by Baz Luhrmann and short-story ‘Neighbours’ by Tim Winton, similar ideas are conveyed through the ways they perceive the Australian society. Both men identify Australia as a progressively changing country, full of opportunities and equipped with unique features, along with dynamic cultures that embellish its already remarkable society. Despite her positive attributes, it is confounded in the mindset of the older generation, lacking the ability to fully break from conformities. They suggest that barriers can only be broken down through risk taking and the ability to withstand pressure to fight for what one believes in.
Body 1 – Change – Strictly Ballroom
Luhrmann exposes the shallow australian society through the use of red curtain cinema, and uses the microscopic world of ballroom dancing to reflect comparable ideas and values of his perceived Australia. The spotlight highlights the prominent figures of the film, emphasising Scott and Fran’s breakthrough in the final scene. Luhrmann employs different devices to emphasise the heightened world of ballroom dancing. The amplification of costume stresses the less important glamour aspects of ballroom dancing and foreshadow growth. The gold blazer worn by scott is symbolic of success and heroism, and is complemented by the bright red dress worn by Fran, effectively contrasts the dull colours she previously wore, suggests that she has re-established a new self, developed from a plain and unnoticed beginner to Scott’s glamorous, confident dancer. These costumes were used to underline young generation’s growing confidence in themselves.
It had always been Scott’s desire to dance his own steps, but he had been put under overwhelming pressure from the older generation , represented by Shirley, Les and Barry Fife. This is evident in “maybe i’m just sick of dancing somebody else’s steps all the time”. This had led Scott to take a stance against his family and suffer misunderstanding in order to stand up for what he believes is right. Doug represents the underdog of the older generation, He tried to change himself as an individual, but did not succeed because the society did not accept it.The secret dance shots of Doug’s in and out of the spotlight are all filmed in a montage style, used to show his passion for dancing, but he can fully express himself only when he is alone, though it was in a ludicrous way.
This creates contrast with the Doug under Shirley’s manipulation, where we only see the repressed and pent-up side of his. Doug allows Shirley to control him as he has lost hope in dance, he never rebukes her attacks, “You silly man, you stupid man”, until Scott provides him with a chance for change, and eventually became the drive that inspired Scott to fully express himself. This scene manipulates the audiences emotions by forcing us to feel sympathetic for doug, we are to understand that Doug’s character is in fact fundamental to the themes of the film. Scott inspires his father to step out from behind Shirley’s shadow and ultimately win in the end, achieving growth. The poignancy of Doug clapping in the final scene, creating the rhythm for his son to dance to suggests he has finally defied the structure and defeated the establishment that for so long squashed his dreams.
Fortunately, through Scott’s sustained efforts and with the help of Fran both characters cultivate their own unique style of dance and triumph over the corruption of the system sustained by Fife and his type.
Body 2 – Acceptance – Neighbours
Tim Winton sees reflects his thought of Australia through the short story, ‘Neighbours’. Winton sees Australia as a progressing country, but its full potential is yet to be found, as the society lacks tolerance and acceptance. Winton’s main influence, as highlighted in the story is from the landscape and the importance of place, but in ‘Neighbours’, he focuses more on emotions that derive from individual experiences.
At first, their impression of the Europeans were shaped by the strange and disgusting customs of their new neighbourhood. this one sided discrimination eventually became mutual, as seen in “The polish widower began to build…he sank posts and poured cement… the young couple turned in their bed and cursed him behind his back.” Through the symbolism of the plucking of ducks, a communal gathering, Winton highlights that the newlyweds are adapting to difference and understanding the sense of unity that comes from being together with others. Winton also emphasises ‘Young’ when addressing the couple highlights ideas of change and hope for future.
Their perception of the immigrants were altered by their own distorted and unreal feelings because the couple was ‘young’, they lacked acceptance and did not know how to interact with the European immigrants, As time goes by, the couple learns to allow the immigrants into their world, as seen when the tone changes halfway through the story, highlights the ease the couple now feel in the community. “As autumn merged into winter…the young couple found themselves smiling back at the neighbours.”. Smiling is a facial expression that provokes friendliness, and in the context it tells us that the couple has essentially found their own place in the society.
In contrast to ‘Neighbours’, Barry Fife shows no evidence of acceptance throughout the film. Barry Fife is a living example of the the barriers that constrain the younger generations. Fife is powerful within the organisation but he is in fact the big fish in a small pond. His character is portrayed with superfluous traits: bounded by tradition, corrupt, selfish, rude and focussed on winning. Barry eventually found himself threatened by Scott and Fran’s vigorous energies and decided to cut the music, yet prevented by the kids who are in favour of Scott and Fran. The kids are an even more effective example of the will to change by young generation. Later in the scene where it involves Barry’s fall, tumbling backwards and brings the trophies down along with him – this emphasises his fall from grace, at the same time with his toupee flapping off his forehead, reveals to us that he, in the end, was defeated by the young generation. Barry Fife’s character shows us that because he lacked the ability to accept others, the willingness to change was never developed.
Body 3 – Similarities and Differences
In ‘Strictly Ballroom’ and ‘Neighbours, ideas about change and acceptance are conveyed through the growth the characters undergo throughout the story. It is evident that one can eventually achieve growth through the will to change, and the ability to accept and tolerate. Luhrmann illustrates that it is hard for one to express his/ her individuality if the environment is too restrictive. Whereas Winton, who suggests that one’s individuality must change in order to fit into the environment.
In ‘Strictly Ballroom’, Scott and Fran are the main elements that conveys ideas of ‘individuality over conformity’. They live in a world of fierce pressure, forced to compete in the ballroom world, where individuality and distinctiveness are not allowed. But through time and courage, they were able to stand up for themselves, and free themselves from the world controlled by restrictive influences. Contrastingly, in ‘Neighbours’, the couple found themselves alienated by the immigrant society to start with. Fortunately, they decided not to be conventional took the risk of losing their self-identity, and through acceptance, developed mutualities with the neighbourhood.
Luhrmann and Winton through ‘Strictly Ballroom’ and ‘Neighbours’, respectively, convey that one must take risks and withstand pressure in order to break down barriers. Scott and Doug were able to withstand pressure, and find courage in their own selves to express themselves, despite the austere culture of Barry’s. The young couple was able to take the risk and developed acceptance, eventually assimilates into the at first antagonistic neighbourhood. The two ideas share commonalities in terms of the importance of change, whether on the environment or one’s self, but at the same time differ as the two texts tell us choosing to belong or not belong is dependent on whether the individual wants to assimilate or to break from conformity.