The Moulin Rouge the most outlandishness nightclub, bordello and cabaret Paris has ever seen; where the inspired intersects with the impossible. Starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, a summer movie made with conventional wisdom and stands out as a vibrant, imaginative gem suffused with the very staples of humanity (freedom, truth, beauty, love) that serve as its unofficial tagline.
A story about idealism in the face of all that is beyond our control, as well as being an absinthe soaked culture, Moulin Rouge is best described as a glittering pop opera that freebases much of the 20th century musical landscape, but it radically reinterprets and re-imagines said material. The Moulin Rouge, a place where anything can happen (and does happen), we see the blossoming love between two people, but it soon becomes forbidden as we see the trials they are put through, ranging from the bedroom scene where we first see the two lovers together and the dance floor – a kaleidoscope of colour and choreography.
The film is directed by Baz Lurhmann, a filmmaker who has made a career out of genre-defying bedazzlement with Strictly Ballroom and William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, is at his best. He uses lots of the same methods in the other films, but the techniques he uses have been taken to the extreme in order to create this film, as with his other films you see that every character is individual and has its own meaning (in Romeo + Juliet, we see them in fancy dress – Romeo, a knight in shining armour and Juliet – an angel).
The costumes used the in the Moulin Rouge are bright, vibrant and very colourful and represents each characters personality and emotions or feelings, for example Satine is the ‘sparkling diamond’ so she wears diamonds, you could go a little deeper and say that she is the sparkling diamond because she is pictured ‘better’ than everyone else or the star of the show – when we see her on her swing the camera has a extreme close-up shot and bright lights are on her, giving the impression of ‘sparkling diamond’.
Lurhmann lighting techniques are similar in both films as they all have two lovers, so the story is mainly cantered around what they doing, that means they will always have back lighting – in the bedroom the back lighting is in red which shows love; Spot lighting when they are singing, and have under lighting when they are dancing, when the lovers (Christian and Satine) are together there is usually a key light on them, as it is very bright it works well with the point they are making – there love is brighter than anything else and its special and he uses green key filters to show jealousy (the duke).
Lurhmann uses many of the same techniques seen in his other films, he uses a lot of music of all different genres in all his films but he interprets and re-imagines said material, digging at the root appeal and emotive core of everything from Nirvana, U2 and the Beatles to David Bowie, Fat boy Slim and Rodgers and Hammerstein, as well as, in larger odes, Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” The Police’s “Roxanne” and Elton John’s “Your Song”.
As the film is in the style of a musical most of the songs are sung by the characters which helps them to express their emotions and shows the audience how their feeling, the characters do their own singing – particularly enjoyable is McGregor’s unique phrasing, and in scene too, with minimal dubbing. The audience are very important to this film as it a musical making it like a stage show on Broadway, it appeals to the audience because they feel they are involved and a part of the film.
Lurhmann uses a lot of connotations in the way he directs, he particularly pays attention to the colours he uses in the bedroom, as it is the one used by the courtesan it is done in red (it signifies love) and gold (signifying richness, a courtesan tends to deal with richer people like kings and dukes etc), he uses lots in his mis-en-scene as well. The bedroom scene in Moulin rouge is, I think, a key scene in the film, as it is where everything happens. The scene is obviously set in the bedroom, which is in an elephant – perhaps Satine had a rich king or prince from India at one time.
In this scene we see, for the first time, Satine and Christian together although they both have very different agendas. Christian is set up by the absinthe soaked Tolouse La Trec for what he thinks is a private poetry reading, whereas Satine has other ideas – it is very entertaining to the audience as the characters get the wrong end of the stick, she thinks that Christian is the duke, as we know he is not so he is shocked at her behaviour while she is surprised by his resilience.
We see that when she realises Christian is not the duke the real one happens to walk in, Satine tries to hide Christian – who at this point totally has no idea of what is going on. It can be seen that if the duke caught Christian in the room with Satine he will jump to conclusions – there is a lot resting on what happens between Satine and the duke, for Satine it is the chance of an acting career but more for Zidler who is set to gain a lot of money through it.
We see that Satine doesn’t want to do anything with the duke while Christian is in the room, at one point in this scene we saw that Christian had fallen for Satine and effectively pouring his soul out to her, and then later on he is giving her the same things to say to the duke – to attract any attention to herself in order to let Christian escape.
It would be to simple a solution to let Christian go now, so Lurhmann keeps the audiences attention by putting Satine and Christian in the room together once more. This time the two approaches to each other are very different as Satine finds out he is just another Bohemian writer, but Christian seems to forget his purpose of being there and starts to pursue Satines’ love – she is not supposed to be in love as she is a business investment, a possession that doesn’t want to be shared with the wrong people.
Christian starts to sing to Satine, as he does this we see all the lights come on in Paris, possibly showing that something special is going to happen that everyone wants to know about, it’s apparent to the audience that she is starting to fall in love with him but is hopelessly trying to stop herself. We see them, supposedly floating on a cloud nine, perhaps suggesting that they both feel like they are on cloud nine (this is connotation, because see them floating but we think it is because they are in love), then we see Christian swinging round a miniature version of the Eiffel tower – a metaphor of there love being bigger than the anything.
The audience is dragged into the scene; Lurhmann does this by, firstly making the lights focus mainly on the two characters and what they are doing – the key light is on there faces so we can see there expressions more clearly and the back light helps counteract the key light making them look more ’rounded’. The cameras mainly have extreme close-up shots on the characters faces to show their emotion and therefore we can see how they really feel about each other, it also gives us the audience an impression of them being the most important characters in the film.
The sound is mostly diegetic during this scene, as we know the characters sung live with minimal dubbing but there are parts in the other parts of the film that have non-diegetic sounds, these mainly are the scenes on the dance floor with music like Lady Marmalade etc. The proxemics are a very important part of the scene especially with the two lover, Christian and Satine also the way she distances herself from the duke, her priorities seem to have changed later on in this scene – she now does what she thinks is good for her (Christian) and not what’s good for the Moulin rouge.
When the duke enters the second time he finds Christian and Satine together, the things get carried away as the other writers and Zidler (the owner of Moulin Rouge) enter. This is when we see the juxtaposition used for the second time, the characters pretend they are practising a show (spectacular, spectacular), we know as the audience they are just improvising in order to get their money out of the duke. The Duke is juxtaposed when he starts to sing – he can’t sing whereas the other characters can, making him look odd and out of place, this also makes us thinks he is different and has a prior engagement to being here.
Lurhmann uses the idea of couples in all of the films he has made, for example Romeo and Juliet – although they are just people playing a role you could expand ideas further and compare the like of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (famous ballroom dancers from the 1940’s), they played a couple and danced as one – Christian and Satines’ dancing, you could say is a pastiche of theirs. In my personal opinion I found the film quite interesting as it highlighted the ideas of the absinthe soaked society that was the bohemian lifestyle.
I felt that the film concentrated a little too much on the ideals of truth, beauty, freedom and love which gave less space to expand further on a more interesting storyline, which worked much better than the old forbidden love found in a film like Cinderella or Rapunzel (that were used to seeing) it avoided the happy ending (this would give it a fantasy feel but also appeals to younger children which if was the intended audience worked).
I could also say I found I quite funny, that’s reminiscent of an old-time musical comedy on speed, or perhaps a madcap cartoon for grownups. Characters race across the screen, popping in and out crazily; sound effects seem straight out of The Three Stooges; the gaudily ornate and otherworldly sets create a stylised atmosphere where nothing can be taken literally, although the film’s emotions eventually hit home with surprising power.