Strictly Ballroom

Essay – term 2

How are the language forms and features of texts used to convey their important ideas?

As interpreters of visual signals, we as humans are deeply affected by visual language, including both the images seen and those visualized in texts. Thus, to a large extent, composers use distinctively visual language to lead us to think about significant issues in the world. This notion is demonstrated in Baz Luhrmann’s film, Strictly Ballroom (1992) and Armin Greder’s picture book, the Island (2007). Both texts use visual forms and features to create images that explore significant issues in our world, such as the struggle between freedom and control and the clash between appearance and reality.

Strictly ballroom employs visual language of film to encourage viewers to reflect on significant issues such as the distinction between appearance and reality. Opening with the theatrical style of the film, it opens with a red curtain, followed by the glistening elaborate title, which immediately introduces the importance of glamorous appearances in the ballroom dancing world. When Shirley, Scott’s mother is introduced her extravagant, vivid costuming and excessive make up, together with the caption which symbolically declares her to be a “costumes consultant” revealing the importance of appearances in this superficial profession. However, in the dance studio when Shirley insists she has her “happy face on,” her forced smile and the rigid dance routine is juxtaposed with the arguments between Scott and his dance partner Liz, emphasizing how the happy appearances are false. This is supported later when Liz and her new partner, Ken, seem to be relaxing in a luxury spa, but the camera zooms out to reveal them in a rundown setting at ‘Ken’s Spa-Orama,’ highlighting the difference between appearance and reality. These superficial images are contrasted with the more natural appearance of Fran, who is initially costumed in a loose t-shirt with no make up and glasses,...