The United States in the mid-1960s was a period of revolution. Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe is set in this era, in the midst of the Vietnam War, the black civil rights movement, gay liberation, and the LSD movement. It was a time of radical change, chaos, as well as social and political instability. In three significant scenes, through the use of angles and lighting, Taymor illustrates the burdens of the Vietnam war, and how these burdens cause necessary transitions in Lucy, Jude, and Max. Lucy, a happy-go-lucky teenaged girl at the beginning of the film, is thrown into a brutal reality and forced to make changes to her idealistic views and feelings regarding the war when her boyfriend Daniel is killed in action in Vietnam. In the scene directly following Daniel's funeral, there is a shot of Lucy lying on her bed, half of her engulfed in shadows, with the sun shining on the other half (Taymor, 36:22). She is shot slightly in profile, further suggesting the two conflicting sides of her. The physical contrast between light and dark in the shot, and how they appear to be trying to take over one another, symbolizes Lucy's own internal battle. There is a sudden understanding within her that the war is not the dream of heroes, bravery, and glory as she previously fantasized. The death of Daniel jolts her and opens her eyes to the reality of war. The light represents the innocent and naive girl that Lucy was immediately before the death of Daniel, and the dark represents the despair that she currently feels, as well as her new-found understanding that she must take a stand for what she now believes in. Taymor uses a high, slightly oblique angle in this shot to further emphasize Lucy's feelings of devastating loss and despair. By making the angle slightly oblique, Taymor adds feelings of instability and insecurity to the shot. Her use of a high angle creates the sense of vulnerability and highlights Lucy's helplessness and confusion.
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