Muriel’s Wedding film analysis
In Muriel’s Wedding identity is represented by numerous film techniques. The dominant ones being acting, music, design, camera angle and editing.
The two aspects that evidently represent the identity are acting and music. Of these two acting is the most effective film technique in capturing Muriel’s individuality and unique approaches to life.
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Throughout the film with Muriel’s acting we are able to get a grasp of her identity and her alter-ego. Her life is a journey of self discovery and of self understanding. Her journey spans the entire film and acting is a vital part through which the responder will track her path to her holy grail of being married and be looked upon, instead of being despised by others.
The film technique of acting is often combined with other film techniques such as music to achieve the desired effects. For example, when holidaying in Bali the song “Dancing Queen” sang by ABBA was played when she was dancing with Rhonda in the night club. This song along with acting is a reflexion of who she wishes to be – a glamorous dancing queen admired and wanted by others as opposed to the undesirable truth that she is ugly and unwanted by others including her own parents who think she is a thief.
Muriel’s childish obsession with ABBA and the frequent playing of their songs addresses the transformation of her to a better person. In combination with designs of Muriel’s bedroom which is full of ABBA posters and photos, it is clear that she often wishes to forget her true identity and dwell in her unrealistic and far-fetched fantasies.
As the movie progresses more ABBA music is played to represent changes in Muriel’s identity. For example at Muriel’s wedding “I do, I do, I do”, which just happens to be another ABBA song is played to represent the fulfilment of her fantasy ad her living lie.
The casting actors and acting styles used all represent the identity of the characters being portrayed. Muriel is presented as an overweight, unfashionable girl wearing clothes that are out of style and contrasted with her “cool” friends. The way Muriel lives her life provides an insight into her identity. From the beginning of the movie we can see that she is inclined to lie, ranging from the blank cheque to her non-existent fiancï¿½ Tim Simms. This suggests that Muriel is not just lying to try to improve her image, but in a matter of fact living in a life of lies.
Costume, being part of the design set addresses the obvious differences in the identity of Muriel and the other characters, especially her four superficial friends Tania, Cheryl, Janine and Nicole. The four contrasted with Muriel are good looking and dressed in the fashion of the time. Muriel, however, on the other hand wears a large dress, not worrying about her weight problem with ugly, dishevelled ponytail.
In the cocktail bar scene the need for Muriel to belong somewhere is obvious and her pleading “I know I’m not normal but I’m trying to change. I’m trying to be more like you.” This scene emphasises that she is an outsider, even to her hometown of Porpoise Spit.
However, near the end of the movie, with the death of her mother there is a sudden change in the mood, the way Muriel behaves and the shocking realisation that lying to others and herself is not the way to live. She breaks out of a life of fantasies and pretence and came to her senses. She’s now no longer reliant on others. It is at this point her identity transformation becomes complete and she moves back to Sydney with Rhonda to start life afresh.
Again, at the end of the movie the song “Dancing Queen” is played. However, this time it is significant in another aspect. She has now truly found herself, the Dancing Queen in her own right, and her life is now no longer only dependant upon ABBA, but both their music and Rhonda.
Written by Michael Chen
Muriel Heslop – what descriptions come to your mind? Overweight, immature, annoying?!! Despite many irritating aspects of Muriel’s identity, why do we, the audience, have such affection for her, even while we laugh at her faults? A lot of it lies in the way her identity is sympathetically conveyed by the camera work.
The reaction of Muriel to the abuse in her life, evident in the camera work, evokes pity from us. These reactions are emphasised to us through close shots of her facial expressions. When Muriel catches the bouquet at a wedding, she is shown in a close up as surprised and ecstatic. However, as the bride screams “who would want to marry YOU, Muriel” and force her to throw it again, another close shot of her face shows her as downcast and unhappy. The close shots bring us to pity her as we see her being hurt and humiliated by the very ones who should love her.
The domination other characters exercise over Muriel is evident through the camera angles. A recurring scene utilises the balcony and the backyard. A high long shot from the balcony shows Petey in the backyard. That this shot is Bill’s perspective is conveyed by a low shot which then shows him on the balcony yelling at Petey This deliberate use of heights to convey status is repeated in a similar scene that takes place after Mrs Heslop’s death. A high shot shows Bill standing in the charred backyard; he is only a small figure, unimposing and unthreatening. A medium shot then shows Muriel in the backyard, on the same level as her father, conveying her change in status. The change in their relationship is further conveyed by a low shot of Joan on the balcony, and we realise Bill Heslop’s critical dictatorship over his children, in particular Muriel, has come to an end. Muriel is often shown in high shots, while her perspective is usually that of a low shot – both techniques convey she feels lower and inferior to others.
It is evident to us as an audience, but not so to Muriel, that her marriage is only one of convenience. During the wedding ceremony, close ups are used to show Muriel’s euphoric happiness, David’s repulsion and alarm, her ex-boyfriend’s disappointment, and Rhonda’s concern and feelings of betrayal. The sham that their marriage really is is depicted through a repeated shot of Muriel entering her apartment. This same shot is used when she first enters David’s apartment. However, we notice sophisticated artworks on the walls in contrast with her television, and modern furniture in contrast to her shabby beanbag. This contrast between their apartments conveys how incompatible the married couple really are.