Half-Arsed: The Breakfast Club (1985)

I have a nice history with The Breakfast Club, as a teenage boy who hung around other teens (boys and girls), this movie was almost inevitable viewing for us after a night of underage drinking. Memories of trying to find a comfy space to sleep on my mates floor, as an eclectic group of teens turned their attention towards a film, older than all of us, that taught us how to be a group of eclectic teens. As a film I’ve only viewed twice in my twenties, yet easily thirty times during my formative years, I may have underestimated the impact this film has had on my life and my creative style.

If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you go and watch it, it’s recently been added to Netflix, and I’ll be talking about specific scenes, so it will help to watch it.

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Example of ‘singles’

A few days ago, I watched this film for the first time in years, fortunately those years have imbued me with a greater appreciation for film and it’s component pieces. The first thing that struck me when re-evaluating The Breakfast Club, is it’s use of ‘singles’ and ‘ensemble staging’, while these could initially seen as way to overcome the fact that most of the movie takes place in a single place, the school library, the use of singles especially bring the audience into the character space. The term ‘Character Space’ may seem a tad wanky/pretentious, but it’s a quick easy way to differentiate the camera placement, as the singles tend to place the camera between/amongst the characters interacting, as the ensemble shots are outside the character space, viewing the characters rather than being amongst them. The use of these singles in the character space put the viewer in the conversation, making the experience feel more active, increasing the empathy we feel for these characters. The use of the longer (wide) ensemble shots serve as establishing the characters in relation to each other, giving us a read on their overall body-language, which you might say “well duh” to, but it’s very important. Body language can be broken down and analysed like any other language, but as we perceive body language throughout a movie, it’s more instinctual and subconscious, when we see a young couple holding hands, we think “oh that’s a young couple”, not “they must be a young couple because they’re holding hands”. When we see the iconic shot of the detention group sitting on the floor in a semi-circle, we just see a bunch of teenagers sitting on the floor, but this is the lowest point for the characters in the movie, they don’t have desks to act as barriers between them, the facade of their characters fall, and they start to see each other as equals, now that’s pretty poetic for a bunch of teen film stars sitting in a library.

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Examples of ‘ensemble staging’

The message of the film as always stuck to me, don’t let your environment or others dictate who you are, crystallised in the relationship between John Bender (Judd Nelson) and Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald), Bender stands as a poor, abused, bad boy, while Claire stands as the rich, privileged, good girl. Bender sees her as his enemy, he acts like an utter dick to her, and she see’s him as lesser than her, until they both realise that they both think that their life is shit, they both realise they didn’t ask for this life, and both hate their parents. As an adult, I find it hard to find the character that “is me”, of course when I was younger I was Bender, but less disadvantaged, but now I’m drawn to Ally Sheedy’s character (without the conventional transformation), or I’m the janitor, the active observer that falls out with the power structure of the story, just there to remind the other characters what’s important, perspective. The film opens with a quote from ‘Changes’ by David Bowie “And these children that you spit on / As they try to change their worlds / Are immune to your consultations / They’re quite aware of what they’re going through”, then that quote explodes into glass, reaffirming the teen rebellion that this film epitomises, breaking away from ideals laid out by parents, teachers, and our peers, teaching us to look inwardly for the answers, rather than being told who you are, you define who you are.

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On a personal note, I’m incredibly reassured after re-watching this eighties-ass masterpiece, as I am unemployed, and slightly aimless, it’s been helpful to reflect inwardly. Setting out to build this website, and try to grow an audience is fucking scary, much like how I viewed adult life as a teen, this is why I’ve chosen The Breakfast Club as the first film to write about in this series, as this is me taking my first steps into a new world, trying to be noticed on the internet. If you ignored me earlier and didn’t watch this movie, do yourself a favour, watch it, and do a bit of reflection, it’s good for ya.

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