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Billy Eliot: The Power of Nurture Over Nature

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Words: 1200 |

Pages: 3|

6 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022

Words: 1200|Pages: 3|6 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022

Film is an evocative medium which informs and reveals through an analytical lense a powerful representation of the individual and collective human experience. In Stephen Daldry’s critically acclaimed coming-of-age film Billy Elliot, this notion is prevalent, as he endeavours to extrapolate the inconsistencies and intricacies of human motivations and behaviours. Daldry illustrates through his skillful storytelling and character development, the confounding ability of human beings to change; challenging his audience to also recognise this ability within themselves, as well as reflect on how their own experiences have sculpted their identity. Thus, Daldry through his employment of cinematic devices, effectively captures the elusive and fluctuating essense of human nature; taking his audience through the story of his protagonist as he battles gender norms, expectations, and adversity itself in the world of Billy Elliot.

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Contextually, Billy Elliot is set during Britain’s 1984 Miners strike; in a time and town where class division, violence and hypermasculinity run rampant. During the initial scenes, the audience is quickly positioned to view Billy’s community as choleric and conservative. This is evident in the overall hostile and profanity ridden dialogue that plagues the film, as well as in the expressed discomfort of the people of the town when individuals ignore the prescribed, acceptable behaviour and interests for individuals of the male and female sex. However, Daldry soon makes it clear that human beings are not so one dimensional, soon shifting focus to his protagonist Billy as he navigates through this environment . During the Boxing hall scene, Billy is confronted with Daldry’s first existential question for the audience; why. Here, Daldry provokes us to consider our own motivations, or in Billy’s case, why he adheres to his alleged responsibilities as a boy and son when they compromise his own wishes. He does this through Billy’s best friend Michael, who acts as Daldry’s messenger and says, “Them Gloves, they went out with the arc… it’s a load of shite, kicking people in.” Michael makes the point through a simple, yet effective Biblical Allusion the outdated perception of boy’s having to do “male oriented” activities to validate their masculinity. He employs the verb of “kicking” as its connotations support the notion of force on upholding this attitude. However, like the audience Billy is torn and still enters; Daldry revealing his positioning of Billy next to an open door in a midshot to convey the significance of this moment, foreboding the crossing of paths to come. After an unsuccessful boxing lesson, Billy is asked to stay back and practice while Mrs Wilkenson’s Ballet class goes on, making sure to “give the key once he’s finished.” this dialogue inevitably facilitating the unconventional crossing of the distinct and separate, feminine (ballet) and masculine (boxing) world. Daldry communicates this as his use of proxemics and mise-en-scene elements create a clear segregation of the two, his placing of the classes at opposite ends of the hall, divided by a bar and mirror to reinforce the mentality of that these two things should remain separate. Humorously despite his reluctance however, Billy is soon revealed to have bypassed this boundary as the reflection of Billy in the mirror as well as the layering of the harsh diegetic sound of the punching bag over the graceful tune of the piano as he breaks through demonstrates the formation of a new perspective in his life as these two once seperate things blend into one another. Subsequently after, a panning shot over the class reveals Billy amongst the ballerina’s; the stark contrast of his costuming (blue boxing boots against the pastel pink slippers) in conjunction with his clumsy and brash movements which are devoid of grace, representing how out of place he is in this moment. Daldry however, pushes this even further as Mrs Wilkenson’s aggressive and somewhat mocking tone in her comment of “Go on, I dare ya!” manipulates Billy’s need to validate his masculinity and as a result pushes his participation. Thus, in these initial scenes of Billy Elliot, Daldry essentially aims to scrutinize engrained behaviours and its ability to limit our world, but also opposingly challenges the audience to consider the innate ability of humans to step out of their comfort zone to see and experience the world through another lense.

Music and soundtrack is instrumental in Billy Elliot; Stephen Daldry utilising score to direct mood, accentuate movement, and strengthen his composition as a whole. In particular, music is essential in revealing the inner thoughts of characters who struggle to verbalise and express conventionally - such a character being Billy’s father, Jackie. Jackie’s transformation over the film is the greatest, his character arguably the most stubborn of the lot, struggling to dissociate from the collective identity of the town. However, Daldry once again reiterates the ability of Human beings to change as Jackie undergoes a transformation of his own. The initial slumped, stiff and stoic demeanour of his character is shattered and bewildered, when he catches his son dancing within the Boxing hall on Christmas eve. Through proxemics as well as a perspective shot, Jackie is shown to be watching his son through metal bars, these elements symbolically reflecting his struggle to break past his ingrained behaviour, and furthermore mirrors the disconnect between the father and son from one another. As the scene progresses, the score begins to swell as he approaches closer, the diegetic sound from within the hall becoming louder as Jackie's anger and confusion builds. Nonetheless, Jackie's anger dissipates as he for the first time comes to understand Billy as Billy communicates to his father, through dance his love and passion for Ballet. This, accompanied by the non diegetic music’s grandeur and crescendos, accent his uninhibited movements and resultantly emulsify the scenes importance to their transformations; symbolically representing Billy’s vulnerability and ‘realness’ in this moment. In a subsequent scene, score comes to play again as Jackie, as a result of this interaction contradicts every action and decision he made previously and decides to cross the picket line. A surging string score begins to play over the frenzied screams of the miners creating a cacophony that mirrors the stress and sacrificial nature of Jackie's choice as he not long before was on the other side. Daldry further heightens the weight of this as he in a long shot reveals Jackie as a small and meager silhouette surrounded by boulders of rubble, as a result humanising his prior actions and generating pathos from the audience. Thus, Daldry through these two scenes seeks to demonstrate the powerful nature of reflection in enabling change within human beings; for both those who are young (Billy) and those who are old. In culmination, Daldry through Jackie hopes to represent the implications of familial relationships on identity; exhibiting essentially that the human experience is both collective and individual.

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Therefore in conclusion, Stephen Daldry in his coming-of-age film Billy Elliot ultimately endeavours to empower his audience to realise their ability to change themselves and others for the better as well as recognise how they have been shaped by their experiences. Daldry through his skillful storytelling prowess and effective usage of thematic devices, shows the power of nurture over nature and how we as human beings can be so much more than our prescribed identity.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Billy Eliot: The Power Of Nurture Over Nature. (2022, April 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/billy-eliot-the-power-of-nurture-over-nature/
“Billy Eliot: The Power Of Nurture Over Nature.” GradesFixer, 11 Apr. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/billy-eliot-the-power-of-nurture-over-nature/
Billy Eliot: The Power Of Nurture Over Nature. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/billy-eliot-the-power-of-nurture-over-nature/> [Accessed 20 Apr. 2024].
Billy Eliot: The Power Of Nurture Over Nature [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 11 [cited 2024 Apr 20]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/billy-eliot-the-power-of-nurture-over-nature/
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