Fingersmith

Section A of exam…

Discuss the ways in which the extract constructs the representation of sexuality using: Mise En Scene; Camerawork; Sound Design; and Editing… 

The television drama extract from ‘Fingersmith’ uses various techniques within: mise-en-scene; camerawork; sound design; and editing in order to represent the sexuality of the three different characters shown in the extract: Miss Maud; the servant, Sue Trinder; and the gentleman, Richard Rivers.

The extract began with a short scene in a dressing room. Miss Maud is shown to be dressing and helping her servant. The scene uses a two shot in order to show the two ladies looking at their reflections in the mirror. These two characters have been positioned into the centre of the shot; this displays to the viewers that these ladies are the main characters but also portrays the close relationship between the two, which later is revealed to be closer than anticipated. The scene begins with a piece of narration from Miss Maud describing the beauty of the other female shown in the scene. The fact that Miss Maud speaks these opinions in a narration, not out loud, displays that these are the hidden and secret homosexual thoughts in her head that she can not expose. In this scene Miss Maud is shown to be wearing a white dress. The colour white is often thought as as the colour of innocence and purity. At the time that this television drama is set, the Victorian era, homosexuality of any form was seen as hugely immoral and a sin. Homosexual people were looked down on in society and because of this people often hid their sexuality and pretended to be heterosexual, pretended to be someone else. By wearing the innocent and pure colour of white, Miss Maud is shown to be encaging, restricting and covering up her true homosexual emotions. During this scene, positioning within mise en scene has been used in order to display how Miss Maud thinks of herself and her priorities. When the two women are shown stood in the mirror, Miss Maud is standing behind her servant, Sue Trinder. This could be seen as unusual because surely she should be seen as more important due to the social hierarchy of the time; however this displays how important Sue really is to Miss Maud and how much she admires, cherishes and arguably loves Sue. The positioning could also display that Miss Maud is not true to herself and does not respect herself due to her true homosexual feelings. The mirror is fairly dusty; this dirt on the mirror could represent the negative views of homosexuality of the time but could also portray that Miss Maud’s dream of having and loving Sue is distorted, unlikely and negative. During this scene the non diegetic, composed score is fairly graceful and buoyant. The sound design is used in order to show the audience how Maud feels when being herself and how happy and at home she feels with her love. This graceful music is contrasted to the exaggerated diegetic sound of the heavy breathing. The heaviness of the breaths indicates that Miss Maud is somewhat nervous around her lover and displays that Maud is scared of her true feelings and the consequences to them. However, the heavy breaths could also indicate the heart beating faster around Sue’s presence due to Maud’s admiration of her; this is because when the heart beats faster it needs more oxygen… meaning heavier breaths are required.

The programme then fades into the next scene; this transition could have been edited in in order to show that Maud can not live her life displaying her true feelings. She must fade out of her dream world and fall back into reality. The scene faded into shows Miss Maud in some form of dark office. The dark lighting to the room could display how gloomy Maud’s life is when she is trapped in her feelings and forced to live life as a different woman. This shorter scene shows the contrasts between Maud’s life when she is being herself and when she is hiding her true feelings. The contrast of lightness and darkness displays her two forms and how they make her feel. The simple, elegant and spacious room from before compared to the busy, smaller and murky room of this scene also displays the simplicity and joy of her life, compared to the complicatedness to a life made up on a lie.

The next scene is located in a bedroom. In this bedroom the two characters are shown to be in bed. The wide shot is used in order to display the two women’s full bodies in the bed and the connection between the two. The fact that the two are shown to be in bed together immediately gives connotations to sexual connection between the two characters. In the same shot, Miss Maud is then shown to almost touch the other female character in areas of the body often related to lust and sexual activity. The two characters are shown to be wearing white, thus displaying the cover up of innocence once again. Miss Maud’s hovering hand over the intimate areas of the other female is override by a white glove. The glove could be acting as a barrier in order to stop Miss Maud from releasing her secret to the world. The whiteness of the glove once again shows that Maud is covering up her, then seen, embarrassing and dirty secret by using an image of innocence and purity. The romantic, composed score playing in the background of the scene further displays the sentimentality between the two characters.

The programme then transitions into a new scene, outside. The environment is displayed as sunny, bright and full of fresh green vegetation. Miss Maud is shown to be painting her lover whilst she sleeps against a boat. In this scene a new character is introduced, he is a male and is wearing dark and black clothes. These colours in contrast to the pure white colour of the women’s outfits display that he is in no way pure but rather dirty as the audience later learn. The mise en scene location of nature, which is displayed through the varying camera shots, alongside the nature related diegetic sounds, such as the chirping of the birds, suggests that Maud feels most comfortable, ‘normal’, and peaceful in her true feelings. The nature related noises also represent her mood as they increase in tempo when her fear increases but decrease in tempo as she becomes more calm and focused upon Sue. A close up shot of Miss Maud’s face displays her concentration upon the woman. Her eyes seem alive and located on the woman only; this in itself displays her romantic feelings towards the woman as she sleeps and is unaware alike everyone else. The camerawork then uses two close ups in a sequence of shot reverse shot in order to display to the audience the intentions and homosexual thoughts of Maud. The close up shots display the breast area of Sue and her hands in her lower region suggesting sexual tension. The close up shot of Maud’s reaction in-between the two displays her sexual intensions and what she wants. Maud is shown to be fixated by the body of the other woman, so much so that red paint falls from her paintbrush onto her skirt. The colour red symbolises love and lust; therefore representing the feelings Maud has towards her female associate. However, red can also be related to danger; this direct link to danger portrays how unsafe the sexuality of Maud is and how dangerous it could be for her secret to escape and her heterosexual act to fall just as the droplet of paint fell from the brush.The longer Maud stares at Sue with intimate intentions and admirations, the dynamics of the soundtrack increase. This could display that her feelings for Sue become stronger the more she attempts to suppress her true feelings. It could also indicate that she is scared of revealing her true self as the reaction of her loved one and others in society may be catastrophic. Towards the beginning of this scene the male character is positioned to be stood in the middle of Maud and Sue. This shows that he comes between the two, is what is keeping Maud away from her true love and displays a form of a love triangle. He is a physical barrier and is obtaining  accepted social views by doing so.  Miss Maud is shown to be sat in the shade, wearing a hat, under an umbrella. The shade represents the cover up of her secret… her life is dark when she is unable to be who she truly is and unable to be with the woman that she loves.It is then when the gentleman notices her intimate focus on Sue. At this point the tempo and dynamics of the composed non diegetic sound increases; this displays to the viewers Maud’s increasing fear as she realises that her secret has become exposed. As Maud notices that her secret has been revealed to the gentleman, the diegetic sound of deep breaths also increase as she is nervous of the upcoming reaction due to the taboo surrounding homosexuality in the Victorian era. Before Maud revealed her true feelings to gentleman Rivers, the length of shots was fairly long and slow paced; this reflected her comfort knowing that her feelings were a secret. However, from the moment where it is revealed until when gentleman Richard Rivers agrees to help cover up Maud’s secret, the length of shots become much shorter. There are also many more shots. This fast pace adds a sense of chaos and the contrast of editing displays Maud’s fear of her secret being out. As the male character approaches Maud with an aggressive trait, all sounds included in the scene are amplified in order to display her increasing fear. Maud is then pulled out of the shade by the gentleman and during this swift and aggressive action her hat falls off. This shows that as she is brought into the sunlight her and as her hat comes off her secret is now no longer a secret and so Maud is who she really is. The true Maud has stepped into the bright, real world. From here, the music stops. Silence can be very powerful and has been used within sound design to show that her secret is not now close to being revealed, it is revealed. The silence is also tense and so represents the atmosphere as no one knows how the upper class, Victorian gentleman will deal with a sinful lesbian. It is eery and produces a sense of discomfort. The two characters then share dialogue which displays the gentleman verbally attacking Maud for her feelings and referring to Sue as a “fingersmith”. A fingersmith is a thief or pick pocket. The use of this phrase to describe the love of Maud’s life shows the jealousy of the heterosexual gentleman who clearly is in love with Maud. It could be argued that he believes the fingersmith is stealing Maud away from him. The gentleman then drags Maud toward a tree, then holds her up against the trunk. The forcefulness could represent the strict rules, judgement and views of society in there Victorian era forcing women with theme emotions to act as ‘normal’, heterosexual. Shot reverse shot is used within camerawork in order to display the expressions of the two characters and to show the discomfort felt by Maud around Richard. This shot reverse shot also displays the two opposites of sexuality appearing in this scene. The heterosexual man is positioned to be higher up than the homosexual woman; thus displaying the views of the time as heterosexuals looked down upon homosexuals as vile and wrong. The silence is still present which adds further tension to the scene. This silence is then broken by an awoken Sue as she can not find Maud. The speech and diegetic sound of Maud suddenly becomes much more frantic as she is close to her lover finding out the truth. This is when the music begins again as the gentleman begins to smother Maud with his affection through sexually related acts. The composed score is eery, uncomfortable to listen to and fairly mysterious; this portrays how Maud is feeling through to the audience and allows them to feel sympathy towards her. Gentleman Richard Rivers is denied a kiss from Maud as her feelings for Sue are true and although she may be able to act heterosexual, this would be taking it too far. As he leans in for a kiss, the shadow of the gentleman covers Maud; this displays that she is once again retreating to her fake and dark life and keeping the secret hidden. The camera then changes to a mid shot revealing the males face infant of Maud’s middle section of body. This section reveals the areas of intimacy and the shot displays the face of the man focussed onto it; this displays the sexuality of the man as he forces himself upon Maud with determination to have her. An aspect of mine en scene that also displays the two sexualities is when Richard Rivers takes off the white glove from Maud’s fragile hands; this could show that he is now in control as he has removed her barrier and is able to control her sexuality of the real world as he wants her for himself. It also shows that he is taking away her innocence as he further carries out sexual related acts. He then licks the hand of Maud. Sound design uses an exaggerated diegetic sound in order to make this even more uncomfortable to watch; this represents the discomfort felt by Maud in the situation.

The extract then fades into the last scene which is located once again in a bedroom. It begins with the a mid shot displaying a topless woman with her back facing the camera. She is positioned in the centre of the shot therefore displaying that she is all that Maud thinks about and is also very important to her. Infront of her, but behind from the view of the shot, there is a burning fire. The fire is a producer of light and so this aspect of mine en scene could portray that being honest with this woman could lead her into the light, could lead her into having an improved life. On the other hand, fire is often related to danger and so this could once again be portraying that Maud’s feelings towards Sue are dangerous and would lead to unknown consequences. The scene has been edited so that it is in slow motion as Sue undresses. This shows how this is almost like a dream for Maud, it displays what she wants in her ideal world but what she can not have. How she can only have Sue in her dreams. On the other hand, the slight blur and slow motion of the scene shows the confusion of Maud surrounding her feelings but also how in the Victorian times homosexuality was seen as wrong and as a distortion that many could not understand. The final shot of the scene shows Maud laid in bed once again with Sue. However, this time she is positioned to have her back facing away from Sue. This could be due to her discomfort from her smothering of gentleman Richard Rivers or because she is trying to suppress her true feelings. On the other hand, a close up shot reveals the worried expression on Maud’s face as she holds the covers over her mouth; this could show that she feels ready to tell Sue about her true feelings but has the cover, representing society, acting as a barrier to stop her. The final part of the scene uses diegetic sound for a short piece of dialogue. The dialogue is muffled due to the cover being over her mouth;  however it could be argued that Maud mutters the words “tell me”; this selection of words could display that Maud is wanting Sue to share her secret love which displays that in the Victorian era many woman had to lie and lived different lives to the lives that their hearts desired. On the other hand, the use of a muffled diegetic sound rather than a clear one could represent how the judgemental restrictions of society muffled the lives of these homosexual women and made them too nervous to speak the truth and act upon it.

The television drama extract from ‘Fingersmith’ uses varying techniques in order to represent sexuality. Two forms of sexuality are displayed alongside one another as the male is in love with Maud due to his heterosexual desires whereas Maud is in love with Sue due to her homosexual desires. Mise en scene, camerawork, sound design and editing are all used in order to represent these two sexualities and the taboo surrounding homosexuality during the Victorian era. Homosexuality was seen to be a sin, not morally correct and looked down upon by the heterosexual people who were confused as to why people would want to be different.

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One thought on “Fingersmith

  1. Steven Jackson

    This is an absolutely fantastic response, Millie – probably the best I’ve ever seen for this clip. You have a good eye for detail and your interpretations are spot on.
    If I had to suggest a way to improve, I’d advise you to use more technical terminology, though you’ve probably got very close to full marks already…

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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