Directors Use of Techniques in “Chocolat”
Individuality versus conformity is a fine line that people in society walk along. This has been shown in Chocolat, released in 2000 and directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Where Vianne and her chocolate shop represent individuality and the Comte represents conformity.
Hallstrom uses various film and dramatic techniques to convey this idea to the audience. In Chocolat, the Comte has a big influence on how the townspeople feel and what they feel they should be doing. This means that the Comte is the pinnacle of control in the town and he feels that everyone should conform to the long standing traditions.
The Comtes’ control over the town is quite strong as shown in the opening scene, where all of the townspeople are shown to be conforming to each other. In this scene the costumes of the townspeople are all dark colours and similar as including the Comte. This shows that the townspeople are conforming all the time, even in what they are wearing. There is a voice over narration in the first part of the opening scene and this line; “If you lived in this town you knew what was expected of you”, shows how controlling the Comte is and that the townspeople did not want to break conformity.
There is a camera shot in this scene that is from Anouks point of view looking up at the Comte. This shows his powerful figure and his control over the townspeople. These techniques show that Comte is a very controlling figure and he likes to impose his feelings and thoughts on to the townspeople. Viannes presence in the town has the opposite effect to that of the Comte. Vianne is a very individual person and this starts to rub off on to the townspeople.
She has her own way of doing things, for example not attending church, which is against the values that the Comte has instilled in the townspeople. Viannes individuality is shown in scene four where she is setting up her shop. There are close up shots of the traditional sculptures that Vianne is placing in her shop. These contrast greatly against the statue shown in the town square and show how different Vianne is to the rest of the town. Vianne is always wearing a piece of clothing that is red which
stands out from the clothing of the townspeople. When she takes in Josephine, she also starts to wearing bright colours. These costumes show Viannes effect on the townspeople and her individuality. In this scene, the images of townspeople peering round at her shop or looking through the cracks in the newspaper into the shop show their curiosity towards Vianne and the idea of individuality that she presents to them. Viannes influences the town through her presence in their lives and her knowledge of individuality that she displays towards them.
The Comtes control is fighting against the effect of Vianne just the same as conformity is against individuality. Both characters want the townspeople to see the world their way. This is shown in scene six where Vianne opens her shop for the first time. In this scene the Comtes house is shown and it has very dark lighting and they style of it is very old fashioned. This shows that the Comte is trying to set an example of what he feels the town should be like and that it should conform to his ideals.
The Comtes control over the town is shown in the reactions of the townspeople when they discover that Vianne is running a chocolate shop. Their reactions include “This certainly is different”, which reveals information that the town has no other shops like this one and that it is new and individual. The music that plays while the townspeople are looking at or entering the shop is bright and tempting. This is a presentation of what is happening and of what is to come from the influence of Viannes individuality on the townspeople.
The Comte and Vianne have opposite effects on the townspeople, trying to make them conform or affecting their individuality. The line between conformity and individuality is very fine. The Comte and Vianne represent different extremes of this line. Their influence on the townspeople is very strong and affects all of the townspeople differently. The Comte wants the townspeople to conform as one and he uses his authority to try and achieve this, but Viannes presence and her individuality drives a change in the thoughts of the townspeople and eventually the Comte.