Written in the 19th Century, William Thackeray's novel Vanity Fair served as a blatant haranguing of the political and economic power-play evident in his society. However in 2004, when Mira Nair adapted the novel into a movie, she maintained Thackeray's integral themes- power-play versus truth - but instead portrayed the inter-relationship of power within the individual, which completely altered the meaning of the text. Nair personifies the power struggle through Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley, in binary opposition. Becky is an impoverished orphan who is determined to increase both her social standing and wealth while Amelia is the daughter in a comfortable middle-class who has no desire to further her place in society. Becky orchestrates most
of the power-play, exploiting money-oriented marriage, political alliance, deceit and cunning and her own sexual promiscuity.
Through flattery, charm and grace, she is also able to gain inheritances, titles and the favour of the court and society.
Although Becky's wiles to gain power do not go unnoticed or unremarked upon, England at the time was in social upheaval, and Becky's behaviour was then recognised as commonplace. Power-play was acknowledged as immoral and deceitful but still accepted as a societal norm. Nair uses costumes and camera techniques to visually emphasise the shift in power and wealth. Becky's plain dresses transform to lush garments, as she ascends the social ladder. Camera angles illustrate Becky's power, through scopophilia and sexual iconography, and shooting Becky from below, to appear more intimidating and powerful. The audience is heavily influenced through Nair's portrayal of Becky, depicted as ruthless and perpetually scheming. Nair also integrates narratives of lesser characters to display differing forms of power-play, such as the manipulation by Amelia's parents of their rich great-aunt Crawley. When a married Becky attempts to seduce the Marquis of Steyne for a...