Hello again, I am aiming for an excellence so could someone please tell me if I have reached this, or how I could improve my essay to.
Describe at least ONE idea that was worth learning about in the text(s).
Explain why the idea was worth learning about in the text(s) as a whole, using examples of visual and/or oral language features to support your ideas.
Stephen Daldry’s Billy Elliot is an exceptional film that follows the journey of a young boy who becomes a ballet dancer, despite facing adverse social challenges. Billy Elliot is raised among stigma and little wealth, and his journey of passion and success challenged social nature and inspires the audience. One important idea worth learning about in this film, has been the determined pursuit of your dreams and potential, even against social expectations and convention. This idea was constantly reinforced through the progression of Billy, and has been shown through use of many language and visual techniques such as mise-en-scene, camera angles, music choice and dialogue. The idea of perseverance and determination has been undoubtedly worth learning about because it has resonated with me and changed the way I perceive society and wider visual texts. Billy Elliot, and in particular Daldry’s purpose in writing it, definitely focuses on teaching people, and especially teenagers like me, to stay true to our passion and explore our potential despite facing obstacles such as social expectation and conventions.
The idea of Billy’s perseverance and determination is introduced in the first scene of the film when we are shown a close-up shot of Billy bouncing in and out of the frame, in slow motion. Through the camera switching to a medium shot, we can see how Billy’s dancing is free and uncoordinated, though it shows us Billy’s talent and potential as a dancer simultaneously. Moreover, this camera angle exhibits Billy’s excited facial expressions and enthusiasm while he dances freely. While Billy dances, Cosmic Dancer by T. Rex plays. This song is important in the scene because it uses repetition to emphasise Billy’s passion for dancing. The lyrics, “I was dancing since I was twelve”, “I danced myself right out of the womb”, and “I was dancing since I was eight” are all repeated several times throughout the song, and the lyric “I danced myself right out of the womb” is repeated eight times throughout the song, having the effect of showing Billy’s natural talent and passion for ballet. Daldry’s purpose in this opening scene is to holistically introduce us to Billy’s enthusiasm and natural talent for dancing. This scene and the camera shots it involves are crucial to this idea because they establish the dream and potential that Billy possesses.
After Billy discovers a ballet class, his determination for dancing is built upon when we are shown visual and verbal techniques of him relentlessly practising Ballet, with the guidance of Mrs Wilkinson. Through a significant cross-cutting montage shot here, the audience are shown Billy tirelessly practising pirouettes; this further develops the idea that Billy wants to become better at ballet, and he will do whatever it takes. An especially important aspect of this visual technique is that we see Billy experience failure while practising. This shows us that Billy is determined to improve, and it makes it all the more rewarding to the audience when the montage ends with Billy mastering the pirouette and smiling. Daldry builds on the tenacity of Billy’s desire to follow his passion in this scene, by showing us that failure will not prevent Billy from doing what he loves.
Despite his new-found talent, Billy is left upset and rejected when his father finds out that he has been going to ballet lessons, instead of boxing lessons. He chastises Billy in a heated rejection of ballet, saying, “Lads do football…or boxing…or wrestling. Not friggin’ ballet.” When Jackie says this, a close-up shot of his face shows him shouting with a disgusted look and a frown, which introduces the audience to the reality of the stigma and expectations surrounding Billy, while this camera shot also provokes fear from the audience. Jackie’s opinion of ballet is a reflection of the town Irvington, where Billy lives.
Although his father forbade him from practising ballet, Billy secretly arranged lessons with Mrs Wilkinson because he wanted to dance regardless of his father’s expectations, this was yet another example of Billy’s willingness to pursue dancing. The upbeat song We Love To Boogie plays as a tracking shot follows Billy and Mrs Wilkinson enthusiastically dancing through the town hall. In this scene, Billy and Mrs Wilkinson are in quick synchronization which shows the progression of Billy’s dancing abilities, while in combination with the upbeat music, builds a cheerful mise-en-scene. While this scene transpires, we also view parallel editing showing brief scenes of Billy’s father. When the film cuts to these scenes, the music abruptly and momentarily stops, a reminder of the stigma and rejection associated with Billy’s passion. Daldry’s purpose here is to show us that Billy has become even more skilful and passionate towards ballet, and will continue to pursue it regardless of social opinion, which asks the audience if they would show the same level of determination with their passion.
Eventually, Jackie discovers Billy and his friend Michael dancing in the town gym. Through an over the shoulder shot showing Jackie entering the gym, the audience are intimidated and can see the disappointment on Jackie’s face when he sees Billy dancing. Exasperated by expectations and rejection, Billy remains determined and stands up for his passion and dream by dancing skilfully in front of his father. After Billy’s dance, Jackie becomes aware of his talent and passion and realises Billy has a potential beyond Irvington.
After Jackie and his community fundraise with great effort, he takes Billy to the Royal Ballet School in London for an audition. We can see the change of Jackie’s mindset as he ensures Billy does not miss the audition, saying “Get back in those changing rooms” when Billy is overwhelmed with nervousness. He then tells the audition’s judges that he wholeheartedly supports Billy’s dreams of ballet dancing.
In the last scene, we see how Billy’s perseverance and determination allow him to reach his potential. Jackie, Tony and Michael watch as Billy prepares to go on-stage. Close up shots follow Billy’s body, and he performs a jete as Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Theme reaches a crescendo and his family and friends watch in awe. This scene is incredibly important in the film because it uses visual and verbal techniques to illustrate Billy’s monumental achievement and accomplishment as a ballet dancer, despite him facing obstacles.
Billy Elliot is a profoundly powerful text which illustrates the idea of the determined pursuit of your dreams and potential, even against social convention in a way worth learning about. This idea relates to people in today’s society who pursue their dreams and potential, while facing barriers and rejection. Billy’s dreams become a reality through determination and bravery, which was shown when he faced his father. This text sends an important message to the audience, and especially teenagers like me, to follow our passion even against today’s social convention.
One of the major reasons why this film was worth learning about, was on account of Stephen Daldry’s purpose and commentary. Daldry constructs the commentary that society does not evolve by itself, but that it changes when people like Billy stay true to who they are and do what they love, even if it means defying social ‘normalities’ of a time or place. We can even see this idea unfolding today as more people are discovering their true identity than ever before, and how they have changed social regularity in doing so. I believe Stephen Daldry views people who shape society by defying the only rules they know, as incredibly brave.
These are the people who change society and continue to define human condition and the pursuit of dreams, potential, passion and identity just as Billy Elliot did. It is apparent to see the link that Billy mirrors historical figures in the real world who have spoken out and stood up for what they believe, and invoked social change.
This film was finally worth learning about because it gave me an insightful perspective into the human condition through the actions of Billy. His extreme perseverance resonated with me on a personal level, as it was encouraging and inspiring to see him overcome so much difficulty. Billy could have easily given up and acted like others around him, or submitted to failure while dancing; but he knew that this was not who he was nor something he wanted to do. Billy never gave up, and his journey shows how humans often go to extraordinary lengths to pursue what they love.