Free Movie Review About Symbolism & Composition
In the Film
The Importance of Being Earnest
Symbolism in the Film The Importance of Being Earnest
The 2002 film, The Importance of Being Earnest, is based off of Oscar Wilde’s play by the same name. It is a Victorian era based comedic satire encompassing the actual importance of indeed being named Earnest. Hilarity is sure to follow due to the confusion of two men attempting to assume his identity for the sake of the women that they each respectfully love.
In the film, one of the more interesting scenes, which is filled with symbolism, occurs when one of our main characters goes through a daunting interview process—or what could be regarded more of as an “interrogation” process. Jack Worthing, who is in love with a woman named Gwendolen Fairfax, must suffer these series of questions asked by her mother, Lady Bracknell, about his own personal self and more if he so desires to marry her. The setting of the home and rooms is set to be extraordinarily exquisite and lavish. As Jack is set to enter the chambers where Lady Bracknell is orchestrating her interviews for a suitable suitor for her daughter, we as viewers see not just one door open, but a multitude of doors—symbolizing multiple degrees of separation in status—which are opened by servants for Jack to pass through. The opening of doors also focuses on the elevated lifestyle, of which Jack Worthing has only been temporarily invited into. When Jack does arrive in the room, Lady Bracknell is wearing the color purple, significant of wealth, superiority, and class. The interview room also consists of lavish ornamentation and the color red is striking everywhere. Red is a color that symbolizes power, but can also be interpreted as being an overwhelming pigment. Within this red room there are also various mirrors placed around the walls. These mirrors are a signifier that Jack cannot escape details of his background from the questions Lady Bracknell will pose. The mirrors are also reflective of the insecurities of Jack Worhting, who had to come up with multiple personalities, it seems, to deflect the unknown whereabouts of his origins and status.
Lady Bracknell also has two women, who appear to be secretaries, which flank the left and right of her own chair in the midst of the room. The centering of her character suggests her status and importance. It is important to note as well that Lady Bracknell is not only wearing purple garb, but she also wears a boutonniere of purple flowers on her dress, which are far more lavish than the simple flowers pinned to the lapel of Jack’s suit. Purple is an obvious representation of royal or regal status, and though Lady Bracknell may not be royalty, the color affirms authority and confidence of her character. However, purple can also have a different connotation relating to chastity or purity. Lady Bracknell’s naiveté stems from her innocence and separation from the mischief and sexual appetite of the younger couples in the play.
In relation to the flowers pinned on Lady Bracknell’s dress, there is far more significance displayed in the flowers pinned to Jack’s coat; a stem of white bellflowers. Though white is usually associated with innocence, purity, and such just as the color purple, bellflowers imply disappointment or loss. These flowers are a subtle representation and foreshadowing of Lady Bracknell refusing him the current opportunity to marry her daughter.
Composition in the Film The Importance of Being Earnest
In this same scene where we find our character, Jack Worthing, being “interrogated” for the opportunity of marrying the woman he loves, Gwendolen, the viewer cannot avoid viewing the many objects placed in the interview room—especially, the flora. The space is carefully curated to fit lavish Victorian standards, however, it is also carefully crafted to contain particular representative objects. The items found in the room seem to barely equate the numerous arrangements of flowers present. The expansive use of blooms throughout the film—from vase to buttonholes—seems to bear a constant exuberant element with thematic connotations. The flowers that are composed in the room appear to overwhelm the area as much as Lady Bracknell’s imposing questions for Jack—and also like her personality. Flowers are a temporary arrangement as well, and to have many placed in the room reinforces the wealth of the setting.
Also evident within the interview room are the bold and confident colors of red and the lavish expressions of gold. When Lady Bracknell is seated, the viewers can note that on her side table, there are various beautiful objects, all of which are gold or silver— whereas, the two other women who are present, have ordinary china teacups on their side tables—which is evidence of elevated status versus her secretaries. Lady Bracknell also has present on her side table, a small silver bell. The bell is oddly plain compared to the ornate sensibility of the room.
Position of the characters is important to note, as the discomfort of Jack becomes evident as the questions begin to rise in levels of intimacy. Though Lady Bracknell and her secretaries are seated throughout the duration of the interview, Jack has decided to stand in the middle of the room encircled by enigmas of wealth. Though there appears to be a comfortable seating area in the interview room when Jack first steps in, Lady Bracknell has placed chairs in a different area facing towards both the doors and a lone chair, which Jack has determined not to sit in. The incredible simplicity of the “interrogation” chair when in the same view as Lady Bracknell’s chair is unmistakable in the film. The “interrogation” chair also seems cheaper compared to the three chairs for which Lady Bracknell and her secretaries are seated. The lone chair has plain wooden details, whereas theirs are gilded with gold and upholstered with red velvet. To make evident which Lady Bracknell’s chair is versus her secretaries, decorative pillows have been positioned on her center placed chair; it is also the biggest of the three seats present.
The multitude of lavish objects that are composed around Jack—but kept separate from him— underscore the societal differences between Jack and Lady Bracknell. It is also an interesting observation to note that Lady Bracknell has provided only the functional purpose of a chair to her guest—and not the gilded ones—though Jack immediately denies himself the venture to accept it. The use of the chair is also more than a prop for the film, but placed in the scene as a prop for the story itself, as Lady Bracknell would have certainly disagreed with Jack being seated for such an important examination in the interest of her daughter, Gwendolen.
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