Moulin Rouge directed by Baz Luhrmann and was made in 2001. This story is about a penniless writer falls in love with a courtesan, however Satine the courtesan has been promised to someone else, the Duke. The film is set in Paris in the year 1899. Paris at that time was practicing new ideals called the Bohemian ideals that are; “freedom, beauty, truth and love”. Paris is an ideal location for this film as it is well known for its romantic semblance. At the end of the film, both characters Satine and Christian reunite but this also results in the catastrophic death of Satine.
In the following essay I am going to demonstrate how the director Baz Luhrmann exploits cinematographic techniques to create meaning for his audience in Moulin Rouge. At the very beginning of the film, the audience is shown a screen with curtains, it is interesting to see that the features of that particular scene was that it had elements of older movies. The scene was in black and white, Luhrmann purposely did this to show the audience that this film is set in the past. Luhrmann designed the set so it resembles an old movie theatre with flickering images on screen.
In old movies there were no sound so there would be a conductor present to play music which would be played before a motion picture begins, this technique was used by Luhrmann. By assembling all these small but effective ingredients together in a short scene, this allows the audience to understand that this film is set in the past. After the opening scene the camera is used to zoom and track through Paris, still the colour is in black and white indicating it is the view of past time Paris. The pace of the camera zooming and tracking through Paris makes the audience feel uncomfortable and intimidated.
Luhrmann uses this method to make the audience feel like they were in 1900s Paris. After the scene at the train station the colour changes from black and white to a pale blue, Luhrmann uses blue filter here. Then the audience is shown Christian played by Ewan McGregor typing on a typewriter. The blue filter shows Christian’s unhappy emotions. It is noticeable to see that the window is open and the wind is wailing. The effect of the sound of the wind wailing indicates emptiness in the atmosphere. Luhrmann has used this technique to show the lonely and upsetting feelings Christian has.
While Christian is typewriting, there is a close up on the word ‘Love’, Luhrmann is emphasising this word as it is a major theme in this story The camera angles Luhrmann uses when filming the Bohemians are widely different from when ordinary people are filmed. This suggests that the Bohemians are unique and contrary kind of people. The time setting is roughly the same time as the Victorians, the Bohemians show a completely diverse ideology of living, differentiating from the upright culture of the Victorians. Luhrmann uses pop culture in the opening part of Moulin Rouge.
When Christian is drinking absinthe with the other Bohemians, Kylie Minogue appears as a green fairy. Luhrmann did not just use any actress to play this role; he used Kylie Minogue in particular because she best suited this role. Everyone knows her as someone being someone being petite and classy; the purpose of Kylie was so that the audience can associate her personalities with her character. In this scene Luhrmann makes use of computer generated images to display the Bohemian ideal: “freedom, beauty, truth and love”. At the end of this scene Kylie is shown with dark red eyes.
This is ironic because it could be signaling to the audience that there is danger to come, as that is one of the common connotations of the colour red. To understand the irony the audience will have to watch the entire movie until its tragic end. When Satine is shown at the Moulin Rouge, there is a blue filter used when the she appears for the first time in the movie. This connects Satine with Christian, when at the beginning Christian is show with a blue filter. Luhrmann uses a lot of popular culture in this film. He manages to include big hits in scenes where song seems appropriate.
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ by Marilyn Munroe is used at the Satine’s entrance. Another prime example is when Christian and Satine are up in the elephant tower, they both sing many famous love songs. This scene is known as the ‘Elephant love melody’. Throughout the movie, songs by many famous artists have been used; this is done so the audience can refer present day culture in past time Paris. At the elephant tower when the love melody is sung, both Christian and Satine unite and hold hands: The camera rotates around them and there are computer generated firework effects in the background.
Luhrmann did this to express the connection between Christian and Satine showing their love and affection. In another scene Christian is seen dancing around famous monuments of Paris like the Eiffel tower, the moon has been personified and is singing. The sky is clear with stars and the surface is concentrated with misty cloud. Luhrmann has adopted these artistries of computer generated and animated elements to display fantasy and a pleasant atmosphere in the love between Christian and Satine. The colour red is almost seen in every scene in this film. This makes red a very important colour.
The different connotations of red are things like love and also things contrasting from this to something like danger and anger. Luhrmann took advantage of this colour because of its various associations, he uses red to convey a minor or major message in several points in the movie for example: Red colour is toned upon Christian’s face to show his jealousy and anger when Satine is up in the gothic tower with the Duke. Luhrmann uses pathetic fallacy in Moulin Rouge. This is when Satine informs Christian that she wants to leave him, when she says this thunder breaks out.
This is to show the sudden harshness Christian felt. The tango scene is a prominent point in the movie. Again, Luhrmann uses the colour red to associate with different things, but here he mainly focuses red on prostitution. Before the tango actually begins, there a few close ups on Christian’s and Satine’s faces. The close ups on Satine’s face reveals that she is sweating and there is also a blue filter used, both sweat and the blue filter show an image to the audience that Satine is nervous about the situation she is in.
The splicing close ups on Christian’s face also reveals that he is also feeling anxious about the situation, these splicing close ups on Satine and Christian show that they both feel the same and are linked together. The tango dance metaphorically represents rape in the tower. There many splicing scenes that represent the chaos involved in love. After the ‘Spectacular Spectacular’ and the celebration, where Satine is about to die, Luhrmann uses slow motion to indicate an unexpected alteration to the pleasurable atmosphere. The brightness turns into complete darkness to show something contrary is to happen.
After Satine dies the camera moves upwards. After someone’s death people tend to turn to divine and spiritual inspiration. God is said to be from the heavens, up above. The actual effect of the camera moving up is to portray that Satine’s soul is being raised to the heavens. At the very end of the movie: close up on the typewriter links this scene to the close up on the typewriter in the beginning scenes. ‘Love’ is mentioned both at the start and at the very end. Luhrmann did this to emphasise the importance of this word throughout the film.
Also, when ‘love’ is typed, there is a in the tone of music which helps emphasise the word. Curtains shut in the same fashion in which they were opened at the beginning, signalling the end. However, this time it is in red, a major colour used in the movie. Luhrmann has his own unique techniques of directing. He devised various camera usages to convey various effects on his audience. In his work he includes different that people are familiar with. His use of pop culture is greatly evident in Moulin Rouge. He has managed to include many famous songs written by very famous individuals.
He would use lyrics of these songs in such a way that it would relate to the emotional state of the characters in the movie. From this movie it would seem that Baz Luhrmann sue of colour is a major part of his techniques. The colours he uses create a lot of interpretations of the meaning of using these colours, red and blue being prominent throughout the film. Overall, Baz Luhrmann has directed a great movie. Many critics have criticised this movie because of many reasons. However, his talent used in the Moulin Rouge, which he has devised and implemented can be stated as displaying the art of cinematography at its very best.