Cabaret Essay, Research Paper
‘Life is a cabaret…’ Do the events of the film support this view of Sally?Sally’s powerful closing song, in which she asserts that ‘life is a cabaret’, indicates her decision to turn away from reality. She chooses the world of the cabaret as a way forward in life over her real relationships with Brian or her father. The song’s call to a frivolous life stands in stark contrast to the events portrayed in the film. Sally is characteristically ignorant of the fact that Berlin may be in any kind of serious trouble. She offers us a fantasy, for we can see that outside of the Kit Kat Club, life is anything but a cabaret.
Bob Fosse depicts a politically unstable and economically depressed society on the verge of moral breakdown. Throughout the film, the audience comes to understand that the cabaret provides an escape from the burden of society’s troubles. Fritz Wendel voices Berlin’s exhausted attitude towards the devastating effects of inflation upon meeting Brian in the Kit Kat Club. The people’s desperate need for change is also evident in the gradual acceptance of the Nazis, who offer stability, wealth, and a return to glory for a crumbling nation. Sally, however, revels in the ‘divine decadence’ of 1931 Berlin.
Sally’s defiant song challenges society’s expectations of people. Her attitude towards all external problems throughout the film is to forge ahead in a reckless, hedonistic and often inconsiderate manner, regardless of whether this entails ignorance of significant events (eg. dead Jew in the street). The song contains a somewhat amoral message, encouraging the audience to have a good time, in spite of what it may take to do so. It urges listeners not to conform to society or to worry about other people’s opinions. Like Sally, the song alluringly promotes a hedonistic lifestyle, to ‘put down’ your boring lives and ‘come hear the music play’. Sally stand centre stage in the spotlight, shot long in the colour of feminism, selling the image of this self-indulgent world with energetic vivacity. She tells us of Elsie, who died of ‘too much pills and liquor’, and asserts that ‘when [she ] goes, [she's] goin’ like Elsie’. Such free spirited sentiments of the song contrast with a society under great pressure.
This song, though it offers an affirmation of Sally’s chice, is obviously contradictory to the events portrayed outside of the illusory cabaret world. The ideas raised in the song are representative of Sally’s attitude to life, and indicate that this is the path she has chosen. However, we can see that she is still delusional, for Fosse offers us many telling clues throughout the film of an increasingly dangerous political situation in Berlin, that Sally refuses to acknowledge. She tells us that ‘life is a cabaret’, and promotes a carefree, self-indulgent lifestyle, when in fact life at that time is about avoiding the persecution of a brutal and victimizing political party. Sally invites her audience to live life as a ‘holiday’, much like the MC’s encouragement to ‘leave your troubles outside,. Fosse clearly shows us that the only way life can exist as a cabaret is by living in a fantasy world. This is certainly what Sally has done, for after all that has happened to her, she chooses the constructed world of the cabaret for her reality.
The extent to which Sally truly belongs to the world of the cabaret becomes clear in her final song, for, after all that has happened, she continues to live a deluded life within a world of illusion. Max has left, she has had an abortion, and now Brian has gone as well. And yet after all that has befallen her, she continues to exist in her gaudy and pretentious world under the ‘bright lights’, forever ‘in the moment’, and seemingly unaffected by her experiences. Sally’s final song acts as a conclusion to the issues raised to her in the film. She has experienced a real relationship with the conservative Brian, but in the end makes the decision to have the abortion and not marry him. This shows us that she is in fact capable of thinking outside her own world, and that she is not completely self-absorbed after all. However, her conscious effort to reject the possibility of a life with Brian, and to instead take up her old attitude and existing life, shows us her preference of fantasy over reality.
Although Sally proves herself able to observe at least that there is another level of existence other than her own, she remains apparently unaffected by her ordeals, and we find her at the end of the film much the same as she was at the beginning: on stage under lights, fitting her theatrical and dramatical persona more so than she ever could in the outside world. Sally seems more genuinely her true self on stage, while elsewhere she seems out of place. For her, the affirmation she gains from performing is enough to continue her hedonistic lifestyle. Having touched upon a world of reality, Sally willingly returns to the fraudulent world of the cabaret and asserts for all she is worth that for her, life is indeed a cabaret.