MEST1 Section A The Wolf of Wall Street Exemplar

Section A Texts, Concepts and Contexts

Answer all questions in Section A.

Read the information and the four questions below. You will be shown a media product threetimes. In between viewings you should make notes in response to the questions below in the space provided. These notes will not be marked. You should spend approximately 15 minutes answering each question in Section A. You should support your answers with evidence from the media product.

In The Wolf of Wall Street DiCaprio plays Belfort, a Long Island penny stockbroker who served 36 months in prison for defrauding investors in a massive 1990s securities scam that involved widespread corruption on Wall Street and in the corporate banking world, including shoe designer Steve Madden. (imdb.com, 2014)

1. Media Institutions

How does the film trailer portray America and capitalism as an institution? (12 marks)

 

2. Media Forms

How does mise-en-scène contribute to the impact of the film?  (12 marks)

 

3. Media Representations

How are men represented in the film trailer? (12 marks)

 

4. Media Audiences

How does the film trailer appeal to a wide audience? (12 marks)

 

Example answers and mark scheme below

1. Media Institutions

How does the film trailer portray America and capitalism as an institution? (12 marks)

Level 4 (10-12 marks)

Thorough knowledge and understanding of a wide range of ways in which capitalism and America was portrayed, demonstrated by detailed reference to the text and confident use of media terminology.

Notes to consider:

  • Introduction of Belfort. (Mid conversation, mid shots, sharing his success with the audience.) Seemingly unassuming introduction. The average everyday man buying into the institution of the American dream – Belfort almost becoming an institution in himself once he manages to realise this dream.
  • Voice over – narrating his own story to support his believe in the ‘land of opportunity’
  • Inserts of text and symbols of power in America for example ‘Wall Street’ and an institution of western and international trade
  • Yellow – almost used at times as a health and safety warning foreshadowing the fallacy of the American Dream and that things often go wrong
  • Key references to icons such as the bull – ‘running of the bulls’
  • Living the American Dream – starting from nowhere working his way up. The narrative structure is slightly fragmented with Belfort reflecting on where it all started and the text unravels to where he finds himself now. (This is the land of opportunity. This is America!)
  • Making so much money – ‘did not know what to do with it’. (The wonders of capitalism and a free market, the responsibilities attached to it, and the impact it can have.)
  • The text is fast paced and energetic to imitate how he lives his life at the time alongside others involved in these institutions.
  • The trailer reveals key moments in the text – but draws strongly on enigma codes to encourage the audience to see the film to find out more about these institutions.  (The big question is – is this legal? Absolutely not…)
  • Money references in every scene – to remind of what profits can be gained from trading in a free capitalist market and being part of this dream.

Sample Answer

Belford is introduced as an ordinary American citizen working hard but with a flame of ambition in his eye. He wears a suit and is portrayed as a typical banker working daily on Wall Street, but earning unimaginable amounts of money, and he is soon able to excite a whole group of people to follow his dream. His portrayal as the typical American story of a self-made man, is inspirational and America’s ideologies are fully realised within his character as an institution which offers great opportunities to those who believe and work hard. (Focus on how the candidate keeps referring back to the question and discusses America and the American Dream. Clear references to capitalism via comments regarding banking and Wall Street.) Belford fully immerse himself into the American dream and is seduced by the great treasures capitalism and trading on a free market offers. Audiences across the globe are excited by this portrayal as they can relate to the aspirations of Belford, who is able to make it Big in the ‘land of opportunity’.

In addition, the trailer takes the audience on a journey with Belford, who is reliving his story, as he arrives at the ‘tender age of 22’ at ‘Wall Street’ and becomes part of the charging of the ‘bulls’. These iconic images are used at the start of the film to ensure that the audience is clear on where the film is placed and that Belford’s success is a typical portrayal of how one can success in the free market if you have drive and enthusiasm. You can become the institution! (Clear analysis if a range of Key Concepts. Insightful analysis.) However, his success does go hand in hand with complications – as he himself asks the question: ‘is it all legal’? (Clear examples form the text used.) The enigma codes in the text and in specific this question leaves the audience wondering. (Clear reference to narrative theories exploring how the text conveys information.) In addition, the audience is warned that this dream in this opportunistic context is short lived. Throughout the trailer there are yellow sign posts connoting possible danger which highlights that Belford had to take risks and the drive to succeed in the America of the 1990s; he had to be bold, ambitious and outwit others to get ahead. But the fallacy of the American dream and the hidden dangers, which are part and parcel of the ideological views of these institutions he support, are soon to catch up with him. The film captures the institutions of capitalism and American in a range of different ways, it drives a man to succeed, but it also seduces that man to take risks and to at times, step over the line in his hunger for success. (Insightful analysis – note how the candidate avoid description and explores each point in detail.)

2. Media Forms

How does mise-en-scène contribute to the impact of the film?  (12 marks)

Level 4 (10-12 marks)

Thorough knowledge and understanding of a wide range of ways mise-en-scène contributes to the impact of the film, demonstrated by detailed reference to the text andconfident use of media terminology.

Notes to consider:

  • Mise-en-scene – everything in the frame not the sound.
  • Unassuming start – but driven by his ambition, auto-body shop – to Wall Street.
  • Humble starts
  • Big buildings, yachts, parties, living the high life
  • Costumes – boring Wall Street suits vs. the colourful and wild parties that one can have if you are successful. The contrast demonstrates how Belford is seduced by the American dream but also how it eats away at what he was at the tender age of twenty one…
  • The buildings – heart of American capitalism
  • Auto Body Shop – humble beginnings all can relate to as they all start there.
  • Cars typical of cars the common man drives in the 1990s, but if you strive high you can get a bite of the apple.

Sample Answer

Mise-en-scene is everything the audience can see in the frame, apart from the sound, and in this film the specific choices made by the director are particularly interesting. When looking at the costume choices of the characters it is interesting to note that they initially start off in a conservative way, all dedicated and hardworking bankers, with professional suits and going about their lives in the conventional way. However, as the film progresses and they gain in success the men become more ambitious and laid back in their dress which suggests to the audience that of course, when you are in these positions you might enjoy your life even more, and that you can now sit back and relax. Alternatively it might suggest to audiences that of course, the men became more arrogant and complacent in their approach. (Note how this candidate debates ideas and considers alternative views.) However, the lifestyle presented to audiences again are engaging as it highlights how the men moved from rags to riches and audiences can keenly relate to these ambitions and dreams.

In addition, the choice of cars used in the film is interesting to note too. (Effective use of a topic sentence to highlight a new point.) At first the main character starts off with a normal ordinary sedan which is a typical family car used at the time. However, he soon progresses to a Jaguar and then of course a red Ferrari. The use of colours is interesting too, as the ordinary family car is a light blue which then changes to the Jaguar – in yellow and the red Ferrari. The yellow seems to echo typical health and safety warnings and connotes danger; however the subliminal colour red used when the audience sees the Ferrari, clearly screams danger! (Focus on the close analysis of the text here – avoid description – and explore each point in detail!) However, the characters are clearly enjoying the highlife and fail to notice the lurking danger, not even the audience is aware as they are all wrapped in the cathartic experience. (Note how the candidate continues to explore the text with audience responses and theories in mind.)

Secondly the use of various settings are useful to focus on too as Belford starts his career off in an auto-body shop, but soon progresses to skyscrapers, grand offices and glamorous settings. The shift between the settings spell his success and the parties, boats and cars etc. again highlights how he loses sight of what is important and just lives life to the full. The audience gains a clear insight into how the American dream can corrupt a character but yet, they are all seduced by the dream and can relate to the aspirations and dreams of all these characters. (Clear evaluation of points.)

Overall the mise-en-scene is used to demonstrate how Belford progressed in his career but more importantly how all these material aspects are also lurking dangers which can lead to self-destruction.

3. Media Representations

How are men represented in the film trailer? (12 marks)

Level 4 (10-12 marks)

Thorough knowledge and understanding of a wide range of ways men represented, demonstrated by detailed reference to the text and confident use of media terminology.

Notes to consider:

  • Patriarchal society
  • Exploitation of others
  • Rise of the wall street millionaires
  • Money hungry, selfish, driven by greed, lack of ethics
  • Corruption of man
  • Crime and punishment
  • Power

Sample Answer

The Wolf of Wall Street draws strongly on male stereotypes in the 1990s in the text. It reflects a patriarchal society ruled by men, and in particular in the context of the stock exchange, where men were more dominant that women at the time. However, it is strange to see that women are so objectified in the film at a time where feminism was at its peak.(Close analysis and insightful reflections on representation as a key concept.) The story portrays a sordid image of men objectifying women and exploiting others for their own gain. Belford himself states that if he uses the client’s money to make money ‘then everyone is happy’. (Look at how the candidate uses detailed examples from the text.) He clearly thinks outside the box, but his morals and ethics are in question, and the audience learns that of course, even though the dream is glamorous, integrity is important.

In addition, the ruthlessness of traders and the irresponsible behaviour of those on the stock market are highlighted, and it is an image modern audiences can relate to in C21st due to the current recession they are facing and the banking crisis they had to live through recently.(Clear reference to critical autonomy – note how the candidate is able to tap into previous knowledge to analyse the text in more detail.)

The arrogance and disrespect for money and others is clear and is at times exciting but unpalatable too. Audiences are often shocked by the attitudes of these men as money is thrown in the bin, literally, and meals are bought for prices disproportionate to what it was worth. (Detailed examples from the text.)They were soon earning money they did not know what to do with. It is of course a disappointing, but realistic portrayal of how irresponsible these individuals were with money that was entrusted to them and the text explore a common theme audiences view on their screens in normal news contexts of corruption and fraud – and ironically men are often at the heart of these practices.

Interesting though in the trailer Belford’s father seems to present a more responsible view.(Note how the candidate also considers alternative portrayals to ensure that ideas are explored in depth.) He remembers his humble beginnings and questions the values of those in power. However, he is soon undermined by a light hearted comment and dismissed which again emphasises to the audience how undervalued good morals and values were at the time.

Overall men are clearly portrayed as selfish and money hungry with no sense of integrity. A shocking portrayal of the Wall Street values at the time.

4. Media Audiences

How does the film trailer appeal to a wide audience? (12 marks)

Level 4 (10-12 marks)

Thorough knowledge and understanding of a wide range of reasons how the film trailer appeals to a wide audience, demonstrated by detailed reference to the text and confidentuse of media terminology.

Notes to consider:

  • The humble beginnings – all audiences able to relate to this
  • American Dream – all aspire to achieve
  • Success – aspirational and something to strive for – taps into the audience’s need to self-actualise
  • Passion, drive and motivation
  • Crime and punishment/ Good vs Evil – Ethical element
  • Star system – Leonardo DiCaprio, Jon Fraveau/ Director Martin Scorsese (Auteur’s Theory) DiCaprio – Catch Me If You CanThe Great Gatsby, etc. (Established audiences and fan base)
  • Nominations for Golden Globes – credibility and raise audience awareness.
  • Alternative point to consider – Is it intended for a wider audience – 18?
  • Hybridity

Sample Answer

The film is a hybrid which suggests that it aims to engage a wide audience. In addition, its narrative reflects on a success story which went wrong, in the context of the American Dream. A story most audience members can effectively relate to. (Look at how audience theories are closely embedded in the response.) By witnessing the ups and downs of Belford’s success audiences can see a glimmer of their own hopes and aspirations too. Key themes are explored other than the American dream and typical themes like crime and punishment and good vs. evil are typically reflected on, which again captures the imagination of audiences seeing that there is always a moral outcome in the end.

The film draws strongly on the star system, as the lead is DiCaprio and the director is Scorsese which means that established audiences following the career paths of both of these successful men, will be keen to see the film. In addition, DiCaprio is known for his work inThe Great GatsbyInceptionShutter Island, and Catch Me If You Can. Some of these films have a very similar theme and it seems like he is drawn to depict these issues in his work. (Note how the candidate draw on critical autonomy to analyse the text and choices more closely.) DiCaprio’s interest in these aspects of the narrative is a typical example of the auteur’s theory as he tends to enjoy working with specific directors too which again attracts a very loyal fan base. (Candidate is demonstrating a detailed knowledge of the key concepts. An insightful evaluation.)

In addition, the fact that the film is nominated for several awards like the Golden Globes adds to the audience’s interest in the film as it raises awareness and provides credibility. The film seems to be highly acclaimed and it appreciated by reputable critics which might suggest to a new audience that this is something to see for the purpose of surveillance. (Clear references to the uses and gratification model.) However, what is interesting to note is that when the film was premiered in Hollywood the initial reaction was not that positive which impacted on audience attendance at the release of the film. (Clear reference to critical autonomy here and reflecting on a variety of issues.)

However, it can also be argued that the film itself might be limited to a range of audiences as it is certified as an 18.  It is clear that it is aiming to address an adult audience, and that the key themes are specifically honed in on them. It therefore might suggest that a wide audience was not the main consideration for the film, but the narrative and the portrayal of that narrative was a more important focus. (Clear reference to alternative views, and close analysis of every detail.)

However, it is still a big blockbuster and attracts a wider audience regardless of this limitation due to its budget, and marketing approach and then the abovementioned themes it touches on. (Insightful evaluation.)

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