Setting “Billy Elliot” Film Study
Setting Time: When? Place: Where? Atmosphere/Context: What?
Signifiers A signifier is any item that signals (reflects) time, place or even character.
Lots of Signifiers = Mise en Scène E.g. The kitchen in the opening scene. What do these details tell us about the people who live there? • Yellow sliding doors, strongly patterned wallpaper. • Clothes hanging inside to dry + peg bag • Formica-topped table with sauce bottle, teapot • Bottle of beer on the mantelpiece, • General clutter
Answer: Items are instantly noticed without being outstanding. Items signify that this is a male-run house, not too well off, working class. Small, crowded, functional, dated.
Signifiers: Cemetery The Mining Pit Red brick terraced houses Paramilitary riot police Coal miners Unions Picket Lines Pubs Boxing Club Mise-en-Scene Mostly poor. Only village green is the cemetery which is dominated by the mining pit in the background. Terrace house are connected – no garden, limited privacy. Police presence is pervasive. Anger, alcohol and boxing = hard male-dominated community. The Village of Everington(County Durham)
Signifiers: Narrow red-brick terrace house Outside toilet. Billy sharing room with Tony. Nana lives in the front room Piano is in this room Tired decorations Radio No TV Mise-en-scene: Poor working class family all living in cramped conditions. No luxuries. (i.e. no TV) Were once comfortable (piano) Signifiers and Mise-en-sceneBilly’s Home
Signifiers: Size of the mine in background of cemetery. Colour (or lack of it) used when filming mine. Cages Huge chimneys Tall wire fences Locked gates Puddles of water on ground Mise-en-scene: Everington Village comprises of vast areas of grey, damp and dreary slag heaps and machiney. Cages (symbol of imprisonment) take the men underground (hell?) Great chimneys loom over the town. Tall wire fences, locked gates add to the idea of prison/containment/cages Puddles of water suggest the retaliation of riot police against angry strikers. Signifiers and Mise-en-SceneThe Mine
Your turn … 1. GROUPS 2. ROTATING AROUND TABLES 3. THE QUESTIONS YOU START ON IS THE ONE YOUR GROUP BECOMES “THE EXPERT” ON! = YOUR GROUP MUST TEACH THIS TOPIC TO THE REST OF THE CLASS … … WHO WILL TAKE NOTES!
How many signifiers can you identify that signal time and place? 1. Whereis the movie set? How do you know? 2. When is it set? How do you know? 3. Who are the main socio-economic group shown? How do you know?
What signifiers tell us that Mrs Wilkinson comes from a different social background? • What sort of mood is created at the start of the film? How is this mood created? • How is the mine setting first shown? What is the effect of this?
Where is the movie set? Everington, a mining village in Country Durham, North East England. It is an small community under extreme threat – the threat of the end of mining which will be the disintegration of their community. How do we know? • Durham is specifically mentioned. • There is mention of mine closure, strike action, police presence and news reports. • Billy tells the panel he is from Everington
When is it set? During the miners’ strikes in 1984-1985. How do we know? • The presence of the police, • The strike posters, • Shots of the mine, • Non-diegetic news reports • Occasional seasonal indicators (blue skies/snow, Christmas etc) show passage of time.
What are the main Socio-Economic Group shown? (Describe) Coal miners – Normally not padly paid – Billy’s mother has a piano, jewellery (which is later pawned) The strike has meant no wages coming in and this has hit the family hard. How do we know this? • Piano chopped up for firewood • Jewellery pawned to get Billy to London • Billy and his father intimidated by the grandness of the Ballet school. (and the sense that they do not belong) “I’ve changed my mind”.
What signifiers tell us Mrs Wilkinson comes from a different social background? She is distinctly middle class. How do you know? • She has a car, driveway and garden • Debbie speaks with less of a Geordie accent • They live in a nice, detached family home. • Home is spacious – better furniture and decorations. • They don’t swear. • Mrs Wilkinson has been trained in a ballet which is considered a cultured and artistic.
What sort of mood is created at the start? How is this mood created? The mood is lively, exhilarated, bouncy and amusing. How is this mood created? • Music • Billy’s bouncing • His lively and rhythmic breakfast making technique. • Sudden change when he realises that Nana is missing.