At the age of 16, I saw the movie American Beauty with friends and was not impressed. Like a good book or album, that you just can’t get into; I was hopeful and had to give it another chance. A few weeks later, another viewing all by my lonesome self, connecting in a whole different light — I went inside.
The movie starts at a lovely bright white house with a velvet green lawn and rose red door, warm decor, blood roses, marijuana; a clean so-called existence of a father, mother and daughter. The foundation of perfection underlining our natural synchronicity, the way everything so easily comes and goes, the fear of the unknown, the questions that only reply with “what if” and the action of the choices we take for the chances.
Surrounded by one single modern day, the main character Lester Burnham, has come to the most stagnant part of his life; where everything is about to be lost and when he has become so dead inside that he doesn’t feel like trying anymore. With some simple changes, he advances himself to where he has always wanted to be; child-like but strong, innocent and free. Lester’s wife and daughter adjust to his new behavior while each of their storylines show their own different ways of following his individual lead.
American Beauty is about waking up from ordinary day-to-day life and discovering, revealing, defining beauty and pleasure. The film presents different ways people relate and respond to grace and elegance. “Look closer.” The words are never spoken but it’s the film’s central theme that shows the turning points which hinge on either the character’s ability to look closer at their lives or their own failure to do so. This film depicts a way of life that we always see but never talk about. The realization that we have forsaken our real happiness for the things that we think should make us complete and content as individuals. Dreaming of a life, which is out of our grasps, is a common thing. So common that everyone, at some point in their own life wishes that they were someone else or that they could in some way be greater than they already are. The greatest fears known to human are the discovery of happiness and extinction of despair. Everyone chooses which of the two will ultimately rule their life, but sometimes life itself can get in the way.
Roses have been associated with love for centuries, and this film maintains this traditional symbolism. The simplicity of red and the overpowering feeling that a person gets at the sight of it are given as guidelines to discovering the beauty found in conventionally unbeautiful things. American Beauty uses roses to symbolize desire in scenes where love is present, but in contrast it also uses roses in scenes where love does not exist, and is yearning to.
The magic in this film captures its viewer in a world of music which enhances not only the understanding of the film, but clearly illustrates the gap between fantasy and reality. Songwriters AnnieLennox, BillWithers & ElliottSmith contributed generously throughout the film while instrumentalist ThomasNewman’s haunting strings perfectly played as the colorful musical backdrop. Without the actual sound of this film, it could have been rather uneasy to understand, as each note said the words that were meant to be unspoken.
The definition in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary reads: “Beauty; the combination of qualities that make something pleasing and impressive to listen to or touch, or especially to look at.” In the film, a different type of beauty is depicted and not merely defined by aesthetic means, instead the simplicity and overpowering feeling that a person gets at the sight of discovering something beautiful is found in conventionally non-beautiful things.
The number of times in this film that I felt an overwhelmed recreated feeling of absolute pure bliss is quite absurd. I found myself inside the minds of a lost but familiar family of characters. How nice to see my reflection, a reality in a sense of myself when I have become so blinded. Reborn to innocence: to see from an objective point of a view and absolutely love every detail. It makes me want to let go of myself again and again as it gives me the realization that nothing will ever be perfect but can’t come close if all one does is keep waiting.
At the end of American Beauty
Lester Burnham speaks with true grateful sincerity:
its hard to stay mad when theres so much beauty in the world
sometimes i feel like im seeing it all at once
and its too much
my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst
and then i remember to relax and stop trying to hold on to it
and then it flows through me like rain
and i can’t feel anything but gratitude
for every single moment of my stupid little life
you have no idea what im talking about, im sure
but don’t worry, you will someday.
Every time I listen to those words and fall into that dark cinematography, it’s easy to gather another reminder and that’s what I love. I believe that American Beauty so easily translates to society due to the moral of the story which shares the richness of the film: to simply enjoy living because you never know what one day may bring. In all honesty, there is no such thing as a mistake. It’s all about taking from what you’ve learned and blinding yourself with the everyday details you get to see: watch the colors appear brighter, as the people become nicer. Synchronicity in its finest, the way a simple day becomes everything that you always knew, but never believed could exist. And I love those days, I want to crawl inside them and sleep there forever. All my analyzations, overwhelming decisions, the morality of whether a feeling is right or wrong gets pushed aside and I get the answer to just take a chance. It’s easy, you just have to want it, listen and open-mindedly walk forward. Sure, disappointments are a given; however, without those challenges of getting from one place to another, there would be nowhere to get to.
listen to the american beauty soundtrack: