The Greatest Showman - The Beauty Beneath

Again, a warm welcome back. Can you believe that we are already on our third instalment of the JRF x Against the Backdrop collaboration? So, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages...get ready for this week’s phenomenal entry... The Greatest Showman.

Millie (ATB)

First off, I want to say that I am glad that we are looking at this film this week. It truly is a stunning film, not only in the way it was produced but for the story it tells, the barriers it breaks down and the road to acceptance that it motions. I am so glad this story was championed to get told. It sends out two incredible messages, one, if you visualize something, no matter how ridiculous it may sound, go after it. Second, we may be different, but we are all worthy of respect, we must embrace these differences. You mustn’t ever be ashamed to hide who you are.

Boy, are you in for a treat. This week we are not only reviewing one incredible still but two. So, I think by now, you’re going to want to know what ones.

Jenny Lind – Never Enough Performance.

Come Alive - Whole Cast Performance.

You know what to do. Open up a tab and type in the above scenes. You’ll find the stills for these.

Jack (JRF)

This is arguably one of the biggest cinematic events of the 2010s, and I totally get why. Hugh Jackman… singing. What’s not to love? Well, whether this is your favourite film ever or you’ve never seen it all the way through, everyone knows that this film is visually stunning. The thing about this is that every single beam of light used in the film is perfectly synonymous with the story, and more importantly, the story’s message.

Millie (ATB)

Whilst I could write praises about the film continuously, my part in this collaboration is to provide a photographer’s perspective of the still from the film – and that is what I will do, I’ll leave the review to Jack.



Jack (JRF)

First up is this powerful picture. Here, on face value, we see a thousand sets of eyes all dimmed to let the light shine on the performer. That may well be the case but there is a lot more being presented.

Despite the light beaming on the performer - Jenny Lind - singing “Never Enough”, the image of her from behind shows the shadows. Taking a look at the way she’s facing, she’s singing with her head held upwards, looking up towards the light. This evidences how she is looking towards the brightness ahead of her, foreshadowing something great coming soon for her. This also shows how the dark (shadows are behind her) ... although the shadows are behind, they are only halfway down her body, though, showing that there are still some things to overcome before they are entirely behind her. I know this sounds like an English essay at college, but this is really what it is

Millie (ATB)

First off, I think this is a beautiful shot. I am a big fan of taking photographs from behind the subject, giving the image a different perspective. In the case of this, it really works well for the scene. You could have easily done this, from standing behind the crowd, and shining the light upon Jenny Lind’s face. But for me, this option works better, it eradicates the audience with lighting and giving all the attention to the performer. Creating a silhouette in the process.

I think if you have seen this film, you’ll know the significance that these scenes offer. With every performance, P.T. Barnum moves further away from the reality he started.

One thing that I find great about this image is the audience. We can see that they are there, and in great numbers but can’t see any of their immediate features. For me, this adds to the story in a clever way. Equally, having the audience visible but not entirely visible gives the image perspective- it offers a glance at the theatre size.

My favourite part of the image is the lights that are reflecting onto the stage, in its own way it adds a compelling feature to the image, without even meaning to. Almost looking like an upside-down exclamation mark. Reflections in images are transformative, they take normal looking images into spectacular ones, even if minor. I think that if we didn’t see the reflective strides of light from the bottom stage lights, the image wouldn’t be as compelling – in my view, this works on pulling the eyes of the viewer to the stage area, and ultimately upon Jenny Lind.



Jack (JRF)

In this still, we see a lack of focus. That’s a good thing. We have nothing that is specifically demanding our attention, more so the attention is on every single person involved. The whole message of the film is to demonstrate and actively show equality for everyone and everything, that one person doesn’t deserve to be treated any differently than the next. This still encapsulates that perfectly, where everyone is the centre of attention. The idea of equality and balance is demonstrated perfectly through the weighting of people on each side of the still. It allows for fluidity in the picture, and for the story to still be heard and come alive even though the picture isn’t moving.

Millie (ATB)

Come Alive. Wow. Everything about this scene is magical. The colours, the costumes, the arena and the diversity of it all. Let’s start with the arena. The arena sets the tone for the era this film which was the 1850’s. It was during this time period that the rise in interior designers began. One thing that tends to be uniform in any image of design from the 1800s, is the windows and the use of drapes to decorate and almost frame these. We can somewhat see them here, the blue and mustard drape in the background. For me, whenever I look at this image immediately my eyes are drawn to the backdrop for this image.

Jack (JRF)

I’m also seriously impressed how there is a focus throughout the film where there is never a break of the light being the focus, almost acting as another presence on screen. The lighting says everything about the story, what is happening at that very moment and what is going to come next. Even in this scene, the light comes from behind the majority of the performing act, as this is quite early on in the film, putting shadows in front of them. Contrasting the first image, this shows that there are going to be hard times ahead of them in the plot, even though they are currently shining bright.

Millie (ATB)

The solid lines and bold colours of the interior decor really add a grand feel to the still. The colours are bold, and all work together. Dark red, dark blue and mustard yellows from the back panelling are quite the eye-catcher. It really makes for a nice backdrop for the cast.

Yet, despite all the features, the costumes, the use of colour – the fact that this image is busy is really something that I love. You can guarantee that each time you look at this still, you will see something new every time. Even if minor, it has that effect. Every character, every colour and every feature can be looked at in greater detail.

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