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Help interpreting scenes

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9 replies to this topic

#1 of 10 OFFLINE   Al.Anderson



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Posted August 16 2004 - 09:31 AM

I’m looking for some help understanding two scenes that have driven me crazy for years. They’re separate areas of confusion, tied together only by the fact that I don’t understand them. The first is in American Beauty. I enjoyed the movie on a couple levels – good performances by the princples and the more traditional look at mid-life crisis following a life of hypocrasy and mis-placed focus. But that’s not the problem – it’s the dang in-movie documentary with the floating bag. I’ve read at least one review that called this a ‘movie within a movie’ (with the implication of this being a wonderful thing). Other reviews echod it’s cleverness and artistic merit. For my part it meant zip. I couldn’t draw one blasted point from the image. Can anyone fill in what that was all about? The second goes back a bit to Mister Roberts. Mid-way into the movie Mr. Robert’s complains that the men are not appreciating what he’s done for them. His friend the doctor replies with something along the lines of “Do these men owe you anything?”. While Mr Robert’s actions up to this point have been unknown to his fellow crewmen, the doctor’s response seemed to imply that the doctor *did* understand, and that even if the men had been aware they indeed don’t owe him anything. I was in my early teens when I first saw the movie and thought – okay, I’ll get this when I’m older. Well I’m as mature as I’m going to get and my response is still that yeah, the men owe him something. So what gives, did I over emphasize that exchange – is it simply the fact that the men are as yet unaware of his actions - or is there some part of the relationship that I’m not getting?

#2 of 10 OFFLINE   Ernest Rister

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Posted August 16 2004 - 12:03 PM

"But that’s not the problem – it’s the dang in-movie documentary with the floating bag." The bag isn't floating, it is dancing. It is performing its own little suspended ballet -- the point being, there is beauty in all things, even in the trash.

#3 of 10 OFFLINE   TommyT


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Posted August 17 2004 - 03:25 AM

I've often wondered, from a techie standpoint, how they managed to choreograph the scene to keep the bag circling in the frame. It's really quite fascinating. Maybe its in the commentary track on the DVD... As for Mr Roberts, yeah the men probably do owe him a lot for standing up to the Captain's tyranny (symbolized in that stupid palm tree!), but Roberts is not the kind of officer who'll say anything about it. That whole theme serves as a reinforcement of his modest nature. He's been trying to act as a buffer btwn the Captain & the crew, protecting them from cruel & inhumane treatment.
It has to start somewhere, it has to start sometime,
What better place than here? What better time than now?

-Rage Against the Machine

#4 of 10 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted August 17 2004 - 04:32 AM

As stated above, the bag represents beauty in everyday things. What appears to be strangest character in the film sees beauty where everyone else cannot, whereas the main characters are obsessed with "finding" or "creating" beauty where it does not belong or is perverted by society. The mother wants to find beauty in power and success instead of her marriage or family and she almost destroys them doing it. The father is obsessed with beauty in the young girl, which turns out to be a fantasy/perversion because she really is a scared little girl, not a lolita seductress. The attractive daughter wants breast implants to "improve" her obviously adequate chest. All the characters fail to see the beauty in their everyday lives and thus want to destroy that life or change it to conform to their idea of what "beauty" is. Meanwhile they stumble about their lives, wrecking everything around them; all the while failing to see the amazing significance of a simple bag being blown in the wind.

#5 of 10 OFFLINE   Al.Anderson



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Posted August 17 2004 - 08:54 AM

I'm now humbled as I think I should have seen the "beauty in everything" message. I wouldn't have picked up on irony of the "strangest character" being the one that does see that beauty. So thanks for the replies! (*I* didn't see the beauty in the bag; so I guess I'm obligated to re-watch the film.) As for Mr. Roberts being modest, I certainly agree, but in this scene he did want the recognition; if only for a brief period of self doubt. And this was presented as a character flaw - and I don't see why.

#6 of 10 OFFLINE   Lew



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Posted August 17 2004 - 09:56 AM

As for the bag, I am with you Al.Anderson. At the time I saw it, I thought it ruined the continuity of the scenes. As for Mr. Roberts, this is one of my favorite John Ford films. Mr. Roberts is not made at the men, even though his frustration becomes manifested as that. He is frustrated with himself for "selling his soul to the devil." He is upset because he made the deal with the captain to give the men liberty, at the cost of stopping is transfer request. This kept grating on him, hence his outburst. Then the Doc, being perceptive as he was, got the guys together and got Mr. R the transfer. Because of the outburst, the Doc was able to fill in some blanks. But, it all had to do with Mr. Roberts' frustration for what he was forced to do. Great movie!! Lew

#7 of 10 OFFLINE   Al.Anderson



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Posted August 20 2004 - 03:03 AM

I get you Lew, the Doc was less in the know than I assumed; and the exchange served as a catharis for Roberts and a point of action for the Doc. I just misinterpreted the Doc's reply as being more than it was. Now I'l watch it again and put this dilemma to bed once and for all. Thanks!

#8 of 10 OFFLINE   Lew



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Posted August 20 2004 - 03:55 AM

It is just my opinion, but that is what I think. When you watch it, let me know if you agree or not. Either way, you get to a terrific movie! Enjoy. Lew.

#9 of 10 OFFLINE   Quentin



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Posted August 20 2004 - 12:53 PM

Been a while since I've seen the wonderful "Mr. Roberts"... But, as I recall, the Doc has indeed figured out that Mr. Roberts has done SOMEthing. Why else would he be kissing the Captain's ass? But, while he probably understands that Mr. Roberts did it to get the men their liberty, he knows Mr. Roberts at this point better than Mr. Roberts knows himself. And, Roberts made the sacrifice because he is unselfish. Sure, you may be watching the film and thinking, "Heck yeah! They owe him a LOT!" But, Mr. Roberts really doesn't think that. Why? Because he's a hero...and, every man on that boat gave up their life to be out their serving their country. None of them owe any more than that. Mr. Roberts knows this, the Doc knows this, and he reminds him.

#10 of 10 OFFLINE   ZacharyTait



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Posted August 20 2004 - 05:24 PM

Reading this about the bag in American Beauty reminds me of the Family Guy episode when they do a spoof of that scene. Posted Image

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