Billy Elliot isn’t just a film about growing up and finding who you are but it’s about society clashing against the government for a better life but through the eyes of Billy Elliot. The cinematography in this film conveys a sense of power through the tilt of the lens, low- and high-key lighting (although must of the film is dull and gray), and the height of the camera itself. In Billy Elliot, the character takes us on a journey of self-discovery weather that is with his dad and how he doesn’t want Billy to do ballet, his friend coming out, or his brother giving in to the government and their coal mining strike. For this essay though, we are looking at Billy’s brother Tony (and the government) in the “London has Fallen” scene and how Brian Tufano, the cinematographer, decided to shoot it.
Starting off with a ground vertical shot moving down and a stampede of police running in one giant line toward the camera, like a wall closing in. It’s almost as if the police are trying to kill a bug that’s been around way too long. While also showing us the power that the police have in this small town in Everington, England. Then we have a high long shot of a rush of black suits and civilians running like there bull’s in a china shop, trying to fight for their rights and the right of the coal miners. The police are just taking over ever shot therein, and there’s never a sense of breathing room to be had. Even a civilian just washing his car didn’t yet relive the impeding stamped that was behind him, showing that not everyone is as severely affected by the government than Billy Elliot’s family.
Brian uses a hand-held camera giving us a more subjective feel of how many and how much power they’re enforcing by putting us right in the middle of the police. He also adds some shaking to the camera while in the crowd of people or running behind Tony through the houses. Demonstrating that people are even dormant striking, they don’t want any trouble, but they’ll do what they can to help the people of their town. We see multiple people and even kids opening doors for strikers and closing them for police, showing that Everington won’t go down without a fight.
The last two parts to honestly look at towards the end of the “London has Fallen” scene are when we see the divide between the police and the town and it’s a literal divide shown by an extreme long shot. One man versus an entire army of black-suited shield bangers. It’s here that Tony is representing the town as a whole and he won’t stop till there’s justice on his family’s table.
Lastly, it’s when Billy looks down on Tony represented by a low, slow-motion medium shot almost in a vertical movement. It’s demonstrating not power but who is the bigger man here and that Tony has dung such a deep hole the only thing Billy can do is look down in sorrow and shame. Tony is fighting for what he believes in but when does it all just stop, and he accepts the fact that this isn’t a battle he’s not going to win. Brain shows these scenes to us to see what power can do to people and how it can break us because not everything can be cheerful and happy all the time. We must pull back and take away something to get something back in return that is more meaningful to the characters in the store and who they really are as a person, through the art of Cinematography.
Edgar-Hunt, Robert, et al. The Language of Film. 2nd ed., Fairchild Books AVA, 2015.
Daldry, Stephen, director. Billy Elliot. Universal Pictures, 2000.