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O Brother, Where Art Thou

O Brother, Where Art Thou research paper due and don’t know how to start it? How about like this?

The Joel Coen directed, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”, loosely based on Homer ’s epic adventure, “The Odyssey”, is a film whose mise-en-scene is packed full of symbolism that reflects the themes of Homer’s epic while maintaining an originality and surreal style that the Coen brother’s have become renowned for.  Much of the symbolism is accomplished through setting and color, which add a great deal to the overall tone and feeling of the film.  Other symbolism is present in the large and varied cast of characters that populate the film, as well as the music for which the film has been widely praised.  In the end, all of these elements combine to make for a deep and heady adventure pitting good against evil, that is relevant in any period, be it Ancient Greece, the depression-era South, or the world as we know it today.

O Brother, Where Art Thou

Set in depression-era Mississippi, “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”, follows the adventures of three escaped convicts who set out in a quest for buried treasure that will soon be lost the area is flooded over.  Symbolism is present in nearly every frame of the film, if one looks hard enough, beginning with the opening sequence.  The film opens on a vast area of land in Mississippi, topped by a blue sky filled with white cumulus clouds, as if all the world is wide open and free.  As the camera pans, the contrast is made between this openness and the confinement of the chain-ganged prisoners who work the rails and sing their woeful song.  The irony being that with all this space in front of them, they can’t step any further away than the man shackled next to them.  The beauty of the blue and white sky also contrasts harshly with the dingy gray and white striped prison uniforms worn by the prisoners, and when they come into view the whole scene takes on an almost sepia toned coloring.  From this opening sequence the contrast has been set between freedom and confinement and leaves little doubt as to which is more desirable.

In the next scene, the silhouettes of the three main characters, chained together, pop out of the cornfields and rush a few steps at a time toward the camera as they begin their escape.  As they advance, they put more and more distance between the dingy grayness of the chain gang and themselves and become more a part of the free world depicted in the opening shot.  The sepia tone fades away and colors begin to emerge in the form of brightly colored foliage as they reach a path in the woods that will mark the beginning of their journey.

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