Could I please have some feedback on my visual essay and an estimated grade? When I last checked with my teacher, it was sitting at an M. So I’ve tried to add more about the director’s intention. If you have any suggestions about where I should include more information on this, that would be great! Also, I’d appreciate feedback on any areas that could be cut out.
Thank you very much!
Analyze how contrast was used to emphasize one or more important ideas.
“Ideas” may refer to character, theme, or setting.
The film Lion directed by Garth Davis follows the harrowing story of a young boy named story who gets separated from his family and ends up in the distant town of Kolkata. Saroo eventually finds his way to an orphanage and is then adopted by an Australian family. Through the deliberate use of film techniques, Davis uses different settings in the film to skillfully contrasts three main ideas - the idea of luxury, the idealization vs. reality of orphanages, and the quality of life Saroo experiences in India compared to Australia.The emphasis on these ideas has a strong impact on the audience, especially for people living in first-world countries where we often take our privileges for granted.
At the beginning of the film the director uses a variety of visual features to show the setting that Saroo is growing up and the frugality that is present. We understand the environment that Saroo lives in when the viewers see Saroo and Guddu risking their lives to steal coal. In a low shot we see Sarro holding out some fabric to drop coal in, while Guddu stands on top of the moving train collecting the coal. In this scene the viewers can also hear background dialogue of Guddu shouting out instructions to Saroo, the calm and ease that Guddu and Saroo operate with indicates that this is a fairly familiar process and they have stolen coal quite a few times. The fact that Guddu and Saroo are risking their lives to get the coal indicates to the viewer that they must be doing this out of necessity. This is further expanded on when Saroo and Guddu head to the market to trade coal for small bags of milk. While at the market we see a close up shot of jalebi being fried by a street vendor, the camera then shifts to Saroo. We see him eyeing the jalebi before he asks Guddu if he could have one jalebi, we then see Guddu replies “one day I will buy you jalebis” to which Saroo cheerfully says “we will buy the whole shop!.” The director intentionally uses these combination of film techniques in these scenes show that the Guddu and Saroo have to work very hard to afford just basic necessities, Saroos innocence in this scene shows that he maybe doesn’t understand the full consequence of his poverty but he holds hope in affording special treats like jalebis. The combination of these scenes also highlights what kids like Saroo view as a luxury compared to what people in first world countries view as a luxury. In New Zealand for example, a luxury meal could be viewed as going to a fine dining restaurant, the fact that Saroo viewed street food as a luxury and hoped one day to afford street food highlight the difference in privilege. We see this reflected in the film during the dinner party scene when Saroo goes to one of his friends’ houses to eat traditional Indian food. After eating Saroo goes to wash his hands and in a low shot we see a plate of jalebis sitting on the counter. This scene emphasizes the contrast in the perception of luxury. The fact that In his early life in India, jalebis were a delicacy he couldn’t afford and longed for and now in Australia the jalebi would have been served as a simple sweet treat after dinner emphasizes the contrast in the perception of luxury.
The concept of relative perception of luxury is very highly relevant as poverty is a very significant issue in India, With the majority of the population living below the poverty line, lack of access to basic necessities like education and healthcare have become the norm. Saroo’s depiction of early-life poverty underscores the importance of addressing these disparities and providing equal opportunities to improve the living conditions of those who are still in a situation similar to his past.
Another key idea that is emphasized is the contrast between the idealization vs reality of orphanages. Living in a first world country we often hold the perception that an orphanage is meant to be a safe retreat for displaced children. Instead of being a place of safety we saw the reality of what it is like to live in an orphanage through Saroo’s experience. We first explore this idea through a long shot of the newly orphaned children lining up. As the children enter the orphanage they can see kids pressed up against the windows staring and laughing as they try to get a glimpse of Saroo and the newly orphaned children.The director intentional portrayal of this scene made the orphanage children look animalistic , the fact that they were restrained by the window ran parallel to the image of animals stuck in a cage. Through this initial scene we can see that the orphanage is overcrowded with children and the nature of the orphanage is quite confining which strongly contrasts with the first world perception we hold of an orphanage being a safe retreat. While we see close up shots of Saroo’s physical needs being met as he is provided with food and clean water there’s not much consideration for the children’s mental and emotional needs. In a mid shot we see a kid who clearly has mental health issues banging his head against a wall during a math class, in a following shot we see him get pulled out of class and getting beaten up. We see this repeatedly during Saroos time in the orphanage: any child who ‘acts up’ gets punished by being beaten up.The features in this scene were deliberately manipulated by the director to create a sense of concern and worry in the audience. By replicating that sense of unease that the kids constantly experience within the audience, it helps put into perspective the emotional toll the disturbed environment of the orphanage would have. The authorities immediate resort to violence and lack of consideration towards the prior trauma the children may hold from being displaced means that the environment of the orphanage further aggravates their mental health issues. This is further reiterated through Saroo’s conversation with a girl in the orphanage, when she says “this is a very bad place” to which Saroo responds “have you seen anybody leave?.” The dialogue used in this scene shows that even though the children may appear to be better off with clean food and water they instead view the orphanage as the enemy. The scenes depicting Saroo’s experience in the orphanage effectively challenge the idealized perception of orphanages held in first-world countries. They highlight the confining nature of these institutions and convey a sense of urgency to escape from them, which can be a stark contrast to the romanticized notions some people might have about orphanages. This portrayal of the harsh conditions in orphanages in the film is not just a fictionalized representation but has a real-world connection. In many developing countries, especially those with limited resources, orphanages often struggle to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the children they serve. The lack of funding, trained staff, and proper infrastructure can result in overcrowded living conditions and a lack of individualized care.
The shocking and distressing experience that Saroo undergoes serves as a window to the 20 million children living in orphanages just in India. Many of these children come from challenging backgrounds, such as poverty, abandonment, or neglect, and they end up in orphanage that are not equipped to address their emotional and psychological needs. The film’s portrayal underscores the urgent need for better support and care for these children in the real world, calling attention to systemic issues.
The contrast between the quality of life in India compared to the quality of life in Australia is emphasized when Saroo goes to his Australian home for the first time. When Saroo first arrives in Australia, he experiences a dramatic shift in his quality of life. We see this in a long shot that displays the scenic landscapes to juxtapose the rough streets and impoverished neighborhoods of India This visual transition is further emphasized by a mid shot of Saroo looking out the window in the car taking in very different architecture.Instead of the cramped houses in the villages of India, Saroo was looking at modern, spacious houses. We can see when he enters the home of his adoptive parents he wanders around mindfully, we see him cautiously touching the screen on the TV in a mid shot and opening the fridge as he tries to make out his new surroundings. Further on in this scene we see Saroo eating at the table with a full plate of food. This scene was intentionally used to strongly contrast the poverty in the initial scenes of the film when Saroo and Guddu had to put their lives at risk to buy a small bag of milk which was then shared amongst the family. The combination of these scenes shows the stark difference in the lifestyle. When Saroo was living in India his lifestyle was based around survival, he would work with his mother and steal with Guddu to make sure there was something for the family to eat. Instead of being in constant survival mode, the lifestyle Saroo experiences in Australia allows him to live as a child and play and have fun. In a long shot we see Saroo and his parents at the beach playing cricket and engaging in recreational activities.Through the unpacking of these scene we can see a significant difference in the contrast of Saroo lifestyle in India which was focused on survival compared to Saroo lifestyle in Australia which focused on him actually living as a child protected from the harsh reality of the real world. The contrast between the quality of life in India compared to the quality of life in Australia serves as a reminder especially to the teenage audience to be grateful for the opportunities and resources we have. It can be described as a geographical lottery to be living in a first-world country where resources are readily available. Most of us can relate to the life Saroo lived in Australia, but the contrast in the quality of life serves as a harsh reminder that there are teenagers just like us who happened to get the short end of the geographical lottery and are living in a third-world country, where they are fighting to survive every day.
In the film Lion, director Garth Daivs employs various film techniques to emphasize the contrast between three main themes: luxury, the idealization versus reality of orphanages, and the quality of life Saroo experiences in India compared to Australia. These themes are very impactful as they serve to underscore the audience’s awareness of the privileges associated with living in a first-world country.