The 1998 movie Great Expectations is a film adaptation directed by Alfonso Cuaron. It is a more modern take on the classic novel by Charles Dickens. It was set up in an 80s time period making the target audience of this film a younger generation. The movie included actors such as Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Cooper, and Anne Bancroft. The particular scene that I have chosen to write and elaborate on is the sequence when Finn is first brought into the Dinsmoor home. In this sequence you see Finn being brought on a tour throughout the extremely large home. Estella is leading Finn through the house, showing him all the nooks of the house, without leaving anything out. You can see that Finn almost looks inferior to Miss Dinsmoor and Estella. This sets up the consistent theme of money and wealth throughout the movie. It shows the first example of Estella thinking that she is worth more than Finn and his family as a whole. Throughout this sequence, themes of money and wealth are extremely prominent through cinematic elements of the position of the actors, the camera angle, the dialogue, and the color scheme.
The first cinematic element I decided to analyze in the film adaptation is the position of the actors. In this sequence of scenes, the actors are set up strategically as they walk through the house to exemplify the underlying idea that they think they are better than Finn and his family. While the two characters are walking throughout the house on the tour, the viewer can see that Estella walks ahead of Finn. The positioning of them ahead of Finn shows the unspoken idea that she is more important than him due to her wealth and socioeconomic status. The theme of wealth and socioeconomic status is set during this scene and then carried out throughout the rest of the film. It is visible that Estella walks around the home at a quick speed, not really giving Finn time to catch up. He is busy looking around at everything in the home and all the details, and Estella does not give Finn time to catch up to her. This feeling of being an inadequate, poor child portrays how Finn will feel until he makes his character development into a gentleman. These feelings of being poor and inadequate are what really motivate Finn to make his character transition. Finn also walks around and he seems confused while he is wandering through the Dinsmoor mansion. You can tell that this setting is so much different than what he is used to in his daily life. His home is basically nothing compared to Estella’s home. The position of his body as he follows hesitantly behind Estella shows his uncertainty and his feelings of inadequacy.
The second cinematic element that portrays a rhetorical meaning is the camera angle. While walking through the Dinsmoor mansion, the camera seems to shift and hit every angle of the house. This camera shifting puts major emphasis on the size of the house, and the amount of wealth that Miss Dinsmoor and Estella really have. This switch of the camera angles also put an emphasis on how small Finn is in the mansion. You can see during this scene that as Finn looks around, the camera makes him look as if he is so much smaller than the home. By using the strategy of warping the proportions of Finn in the house, it almost seems as if he is out of his element. He has never experienced such a materialistic environment and such an embodiment of wealth. By panning around the set it gives the illusion that he was less than them and not worthy of being in their home. The angles also shift the lighting throughout the house and gives the house a mysterious vibe. I think that the mysteriousness is very underlying, and not many would take the camera angle shift for that theme, but I think that Estella actually has a lot hidden characteristics in herself. She is a pretty mysterious character herself, so this scenic element adds to the foreshadowing of her character development.
The third cinematic element that includes an underlying rhetorical meaning is the element of dialogue. Throughout this scene, you can hear Estella bragging about her home and the expensive qualities and decorations in her home. She talks about the interior decorative details from foreign places and how exquisite everything in her home was. She also begins to talk to him in French and obviously Finn is not as culturally inclined to understand French. She also brings up the fact that she has a gardener working at her house doing all of the outdoor work. Finn comes from a family where they do not have money to just waste on a gardener. This shows how she talks without regard to others, and she doesn’t take into account the fact that Finn probably does not understand what she is saying, nor can he relate to things like having people working in the home. She is in her own little privileged world, and does not understand that not everyone is as privileged as she is. Estella also talks to Finn as if she is talking down to him. She does not talk to him with the same regard that she might regard other wealthy individuals with.
The last, and most important, cinematic element that was prevalent throughout the movie and this scene sequence is the color green. The color green is such a prominent color in symbolizing wealth, as money is green. In this sequence Miss Dinsmoor is dressed in green head to toe, symbolizing her excessive wealth. Estella is also seen wearing a green skirt. Throughout this scene sequence you can see how the underlying colors can bring to the surface these themes throughout the movie. Money motivates everything that goes on in this movie, and to make it more prominent the directors work to make it obvious that all the characters are wearing green and that the scenes are constantly focused on the color green.
In conclusion, these cinematic elements within the film adaptation of Great Expectations reveal many underlying rhetorical meanings. Until being asked to recognize the cinematic elements of the movie, one would not have recognized them, nor would they have been as prevalent. There were 4 important thematic and cinematic elements that bring forth the theme of wealth in the movie: the actor placement, the camera angles, the dialogue, and the color green.
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