Thursday, November 6, 2014

Repetition in American Beauty

Sam Mende’s film American Beauty takes place in a boring monotonous suburb. It is fitting then that the film features so much repetition. The first scenes are almost all repeated later in the film with a different twist on them.  For instance, the family is seen at the dinner table in the beginning eating quietly and the same shot with the exact same framing comes up later in the film but this time they get into a huge argument that ends with plates being thrown against the wall.

The small differences in these scenes speak volumes. Lester’s clothing is more relaxed in the second scene, he is drinking a beer, not wine, the red roses on the table have been replaced by an empty bowl. These two shots side by side tell the whole story, even though they are essentially the same  basic shot.

Another place repetition comes in is in Lester’s fantasies about Angela in which jump cuts and repetition of shots establish these sequences as existing only in Lester’s mind. The music is similarly repetitive with percussive rhythms that repeat over and over. These sequences also repeat several times in the film, notably scenes in which Angela is covered in red roses or has red roses coming out of her etc. as seen in the video below, which illustrates all of these points.

The repetition in this film serves to both establish the boring, sameness of life in an American suburb as well as to show the excitement of Lester’s voyeuristic fantasies.

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