analyse how contrasting settings were used to explore one or more themes. ‘Settings” may refer to physician places as well as social and historical contexts.
Perfection is defined as something that is of perfect quality, a state of life where one has all the desirable qualities imaginable. However, as shown through Tim Burton’s ‘Big Fish’, perfection is merely something to strive for, never is it to be obtained. ‘Big Fish’ (2003), is a fantasy film which was adapted into film from Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel of the same title. The film explores many different stages of transformation of Spectre - ‘the best kept secret in Alabama’ - that help pave the way for the theme of ‘perfection is our own downfall’. The film ‘Big fish’ takes place in the 1940s - ‘70s, Alabama, United States, where the life story of Edward Bloom is told from his perspective of metaphors. Throughout the film and Edward’s life, the town of Spectre is explored a variety of times, each time revealing more truth of Edward Bloom’s life than the last. Shown through different props, costuming, and dialogue in Spectre, the inevitable downfall of perfection is explored in ‘Big Fish’. Spectre is shown to contrast with the outside world, because Spectre’s need for constant perfection is not self-sufficient, as all the places outside Spectre are open to evolving. Spectre is an example of the theme ‘perfection is the cause for our own downfall’, because through having perfection we restrict ourselves of our full potential.
The town of Spectre is introduced to the audience as the ‘ideal’ town. Notable for its close-knit community, almost artificially bright landscaping, and cape cod architecture, Spectre is almost unsettlingly perfect to the outside viewer. Spectre is faultless. The color scheme of the entire town from costume, buildings, and the environment is harmonic and cohesive, reflecting the idyllic nature of Spectre, emphasising the fact that Spectre is the ideal place to live, making it harder to leave. Through many establishing shots of the town, it’s shown that Spectre was made to be the destination of anyone’s journey, therefore it wasn’t built or prepared for Edward Bloom to leave which caused the dramatic downfall of the town. In contrast to the bright, over-exposed lighting, the town of Spectre is emotionally mute, which is visually expressed after Edwards departure to the town. Due to the town’s own self-identified perfection, none of the residents are ever in conflict, everyone is treated equally. This idea is further explored with eye level camera angles throughout the Spectre scenes. The town reflects it’s seemingly perfect state through its use of practical lighting, where the town is given a warm, over-exposed glow which makes the entire town appear surreal. After Edward Bloom leaves, the town is left in a dull and dying state where the lighting drastically changes from colourful to mute, highlighting the theme that perfection doesn’t truly exist in a sustainable and healthy manner.
Reluctance to leave is also shown through the symbol/prop of the shoe. The shoes - or lack thereof - also symbolise the end of a journey. With the quote said to Edward before he leaves the town, “How are you going to go make it without your shoes?”, it is made known to the audience that Spectre is the destination point of someone’s life, it’s where you go when you settle down. The lack of shoes Edward has when he leaves symbolises the reluctance he has to end his personal journey, because if you don’t have any shoes on you’re not ‘supposed’ to go anywhere because they protect us from danger. Spectre is the end point of someone’s life journey, and since Edward’s adventures had only just begun, he wasn’t going to allow himself to settle. Edward understood that there was more for him beyond Spectre to experience in order to improve himself and further strive for perfection, because we can never improve ourselves if we already live among what’s perfect. Leaving what is already catering to our needs - our comfort zone - is often hard to do, which is why when Edward Bloom leaves Spectre it is made known to him that it’ll be a hard task without his shoes protecting him. Edward was prepared to endure the pain of leaving perfection in the chance he was able to better himself through his other adventures. Another prop used to show the stagnancy of Spectre is the poem written by Norther Winslow. Only consisting of three lines, the poem - that took twelve years to write - represents the perfection, and lack of challenge that Spectre is cursed with. Since perfection was thought to be already obtained in Spectre, the poem was created in reflection of the lack of potential Norther Winslow was living up to. Even though the poem Norther wrote was bland and uninspired, all the residents remain consistently stultified by their own isolation and self sufficiency from the rest of the world, perfection in Spectre was never going to remain self-sufficient as everyone who lived there was deprived of their full potential.
Spectre is only supposed to be found by Edward after he decides to follow the path of an abandoned road which he has always intended to explore. He then is forced through a series of dangerous events where he ventures through the now neglected and overgrown road that is now overrun with plants, wasps, and spiders. Only then, does he find himself in the ideal town of Spectre. ‘Big Fish’ explores the reasoning and meaning behind what journeys mean for different people, though Edward’s journey down the closed off road is relatively short, it summarises the purpose of a journey, to reach - some form of - destination. While in Spectre, Edward Bloom says ‘I’d consider myself lucky to end up here, but i’m just not ready to settle down just yet’, the acknowledgement that Edward makes highlights how Spectre is the ideal destination for most, but to him, the journey is more important/meaningful and he is just about to start his. From here, Edward is constantly striving for his own defined version of perfection rather than having it handed to him through Spectre. Before Edward Bloom left his hometown for his adventures, he was told that “The biggest fish in the river gets that way by never being caught”, to Edward this is able to be applied to Spectre in the way that living a ‘perfect’ static life in Spectre forever is the same as being caught. Much like the biggest fish, Edward cannot improve himself if he is trapped within the bounds of Spectre, showing how perfection cannot be sufficient in order to live a fulfilling life.
Tim Burton’s ‘Big Fish’, is a film in which expresses the instability of perfection and how true fulfillment of life cannot be obtained through instant gratification, through the use of colour, lighting, camera angles, props, and dialogue. Spectre conveys the theme of ‘perfection is our downfall’. If perfection - or being the biggest fish - was easily obtained, we would be left with no real reason to better ourselves in our lives, making us all extremely stagnant and muted emotionally. ‘Big Fish’, by Tim Burton highlights the importance of striving for perfection through the contrast of Spectre in it’s own isolation from the rest of the world. Being perfect in an imperfect world leads to an isolating, stultified life.