QU/ What are the values of 1870 New York? How are they conveyed to the viewer in Martin Scorses's "The Age Of Innocence"?

Essay by marlboro_642High School, 10th gradeA, March 2004

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The film "the Age Of Innocence" is set in New York in the 1870's. The plot revolves primarily around a man's relationship with his wife and with another woman with whom he has fallen in love. Through this basic plot the viewer is given an insight into the nature of this culture and society and the values that were seen to be important.

Focus is placed on the significance of wealth, conformity and tradition and these are conveyed through characterization and various film techniques.

The opening scene in the Age of Innocence is set at the opera. This gives a good indication immediately of what kind of society this film will portray. From the beginning of the scene the viewer knows straightaway that this is a wealthy/aristocratic society. This is shown by the formality and ostentation of the characters appearance. The camera focuses on these obvious symbols of wealth (e.g.

the elaborate jewellery) From this emphasis on material things it is obvious that this society is one that greatly values wealth.

The fact that basically this entire upper class group of the society has gone to the opera (as they do every year) shows that conformity and ritual are seen as important: to be accepted, one must conform. Anyone who does not is exposed and shunned, or gossiped about, e.g. Larry Lefferts talking about Countess Olenska. Conformity is also emphasized through the characters appearance, the way they behave (in a formal manner), and the fact that they were there at the opera mainly to be seen, rather than to enjoy the performance (e.g. Lefferts scanning the audience with his binoculars).

It can also be seen that the society values tradition and predictability. This is shown by the fact that Mrs. Julius Beaufort always leaves the opera at the same time...