Hi readers, here is my first ever guest post! It was written by my sister, who has a personal style blog (I’ve been told off for calling it a fashion blog) called The B Team. If you like what you read, Robin has also done posts focussing on the fashion and costuming of Clueless, The Breakfast Club, Thelma & Louise, When Harry Met Sally (favourite films for both of us), and this year’s American Hustle. You can find them all on this handy directory.
We were just roving about, being free
Last night I watched Sally Potter’s 2013 film Ginger & Rosa. And it’s so good that since then I’ve watched it twice more. I am serious. It’s about two 17 year old girls who come of age in London at the climax of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Although the film has some pretty big flaws including underdeveloped secondary characters and a central drama that slips into soapy melodrama at some points (not to mention the DVD had no subtitles…), Elle Fanning’s performance as the eponymous Ginger is so heartbreakingly powerful it’s easy to ignore the film’s faults. It says a lot that a 12 year old American girl beat over 2000 other actresses to play a 17 year old British girl set in an era she hadn’t even been alive in. I hadn’t really appreciated how amazing and subtle an actor Elle is before, but I’ll definitely be checking out more of her films in the future. (Also, Elle > Dakota).
The real power of the film is the constant threat of global catastrophe as an allegory for the teenage-girl mentality of internalising everything and feeling emotions so strongly that anything can feel like the end of the world. Ginger is sickly fascinated with the nuclear bomb, and preoccupied with the idea that the world could end at any time, and DP Robbie Ryan’s beautiful and intimate hand held camerawork captures every emotion on her face so brilliantly.
Ginger and Rosa begin the film as children born in the same hospital on the same day; they have that all too recognisable friendship where you’re so close you may as well be the same person. Their world is exactly how I’d imagine post-war girls in Britain, they shrink their jeans in the bath tub, straighten their hair with an iron and practice smoking in abandoned bomb sites. Ginger is particularly interesting, she reads T.S. Eliot and Simone de Beauvoir and listens to Jazz. She encourages Rosa (Alice Englert) to attend youth ban-the-bomb meetings and discusses Bertrand Russell with her militant godmother (an underused Annette Bening) and liberal activist godfathers (Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt).
Despite their initial similarities in the way they act, dress and look, Ginger and Rosa’s philosophical and behavioural differences become quickly evident. Perhaps the exchange that sums up their differing viewpoints best is when Ginger says “I think we should do something, about the bomb, you know, protest”, and Rosa replies “I think we should pray”. Ginger wants action. She wants to save the world and is willing to be jailed (and eventually is) for her political beliefs, whereas Rosa is intent on finding love and personal fulfilment, and is motivated to save only one person (serious spoiler so I won’t give anything away!). Ginger says it best when she writes to Rosa “We are different, you dream of everlasting love. Not me. Because what really matters is to live”. The girl’s bohemian inner circle are all pushed to their limits, and the eventual climactic fallout is a metaphorical nuclear bomb that shatters relationships with a powerful emotional intensity.
The themes of relationships between parents and children, love and friendship are made all the more explosive against the backdrop of war and the ever-present looming apocalypse, which is arguably as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. We live in a very different era, but it’s important to remember that the threat of nuclear war hasn’t been eliminated and the divide between the two worlds is as large and polarized as ever. What really works about Ginger & Rosa is the global story of the Cuban Missile Crisis combined with the intelligent and highly personal examination of two girls going through the universal challenge of growing up.
Ginger and Rosa are best friends, almost sisters, which is highlighted by the way they dress the same and look very similar. The shot of them holding hands in the car is very evocative of Thelma & Louise to me.
Their style consists of school uniform skirts and knee high socks, over sized duffle coats, speckly grey turtle necks (all the characters wear these!) and tight jeans shrunk in the bath tub.
The early shot of Ginger lying on the bed looking at Rosa experimenting with a different style is very memorable, and arguably foreshadows the different directions their lives go in.
The attention to detail with the costumes was very impressive. Costume designer Holly Waddington made sure every single extra was in appropriate period dress. The bottle green turtle neck Ginger wears in the film is so beautiful against her (dyed!) red hair. The costumes, hair and makeup perfectly mirror the way Ginger and Rosa begin to grow apart. It is highly noticeable when Rosa begins to dress in black, wear eye liner and gets a gorgeous Bardot hair cut. It really signifies Rosa’s transition into an adult who is in a relationship, whereas Ginger pins on her ban the bombs badge and focuses on her activist and intellectual pursuits.
The 1960s schoolgirl style is captured with leather satchels, jumpers and blazers, again in shades of muted grey and green.
It was really easy for me to capture Ginger and Rosa’s classic style with bits and pieces I already had in my wardrobe plus a flick of eyeliner and the requisite messy ginger hair I already have!
Duffle coat: Dad’s! (Burton I think), Chambray Shirt: Forever 21, Jeans: Topshop (old), Boots: Leather horse riding boots from a carboot sale! Bag: Cambridge Satchel Company
As scenealotoffilms is primarily a film blog I haven’t included all of Robin’s images demonstrating the superb costuming of Ginger & Rosa, but you can click the image above to view the original post.
If, like Robin, you’re a fan of Elle Fanning I’d recommend watching J.J. Abrams Super 8 and Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere. She gives impressive performances in both.
Thanks for reading 🙂