ism?In Cabaret Fosse uses many techniques to convey his message that escapism is dangerous for the individual and as a society as a whole. Firstly he uses a musical to highlight the dangers of escapism. This is an ironic choice because a musical is typically for pure entertainment. Musicals are normally escapist entertainment, but in this case Fosse has a serious message. Fosse sets his film in the Kit Kat Klub, this is a place where people go to relax and escape from their troubles. Fosse also enhances his message that escapism is dangerous by using film techniques such as crosscutting and montage. Fosses main way of showing us the dangers of escapism is through his characters and plot. He shows us the dangers for the individual mostly through Sally and Brian and he shows the dangers for society as a whole through Max.
By choosing a musical this give Fosse the power to choose the music. In this case the music helps narrate the film, but more importantly it helps him show his audience that escapism is dangerous. This can be seen from the beginning to the end of the film. For example, the opening number Wilkommen welcomes both the viewer, and Brian into the world of the cabaret. Within just a few seconds of seeing the club we can see that it is filled with androgynous looking people, including the MC himself. We are most definitely shown that the cabaret is where people escape from their troubles when the MC tells his audience to leave their troubles outside. He also says to them In here (Kit Kat Klub), life is beautiful. During the course of the film we see that life is actually not beautiful, and that running away leads to disaster.
Film techniques, such as crosscutting and intercutting further accentuates the films main message. When Brian gives in and agrees to scream under the bridge this signifies that he has lost restraint. This then crosscuts to just outside the Kit Kat Klub, where the manager is being beaten up. The cut from scene to scene makes the viewer feel that the loss of responsibility and restraint has led to or has contributed to the manager being beaten.
Intercutting is also used in the same scene. The camera cuts from inside the club and outside. Inside the club the dancers and the MC are doing their version of the Bavarian Slap dance. This version is more perverted and pokes fun at the folk dance beloved by the Nazis. The slaps done on stage by the MC mimics the blows the manager is getting from the Nazis. Also scenes of the audience laughing and clapping are intercut with scenes of the manager being beaten to death. This shows the dangers of escapism by saying that only laughing at your problems will not get rid of them.
Sallys way of life shows the dangers of escapism for the individual. She is self-centred and is so caught up in the cabaret lifestyle she chooses to live that she does not know what is happening around her. Her self-absorbed ways are shown many times during the film. For example, when in the car with Brian and Max there is a dead Jew is in the street it appears to be a brutal murder as there is blood everywhere and the ambulance sirens are blaring, all Sally cares about is where they are going for lunch, somewhere classy she hopes.
Sallys powerful closing song Life is a Cabaret asserts 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. Choosing the world of the Cabaret has been her philosophy throughout the film and where has it taken her? She has lost everything, and gained nothing. She did not gain the respect of her father or build on their relationship. She also lost Brian and Max. Most importantly she lost a part of her, the life inside of her. Sallys downward spiral shows the grave consequences of running away, of escaping. We see the effect of her lifestyle backstage before the Life is a Cabaret number. Her face is grim and sad looking, but again she chooses the world of the Cabaret and puts on the fake smile to perform.
Maxs way of life show the dangers of escapism for society as a whole. Max is a Baron; he is part of the traditional ruling class of Germany. Max chooses to be hedonistic. He does not spend his money on protecting or serving Germans he spends it on having a good time, he does not worry about politics. This is quite obvious when, after they leave beer garden, Brian asks him Do you still think you can control them (the Nazis)? Max responds with nothing but a shrug, he does not really care about what is going on. This shows how dangerous escapism is for society if the traditional rulers are hedonistic and selfish as with no one taking control it leaves a big power vacuum, in which evil can take control.
To a lesser extent Brian also shows the dangers of escapism. His detachment is a form of escaping. Although he might not agree with the Nazis he does nothing to voice his opinion until it is too late. During his short time of living life as a cabaret Brian turned from the seemingly straight English gentleman to sleeping with Max. It was Maxs riches that seduced him most. He also offered to marry Sally because of the baby. He did not even know who the father was and this baby was a result of living life as a cabaret. Luckily for him Sally aborted it and sort of let him of the hook. He went back to England to live his former life.
At the start of the film the Kit Kat Klub makes fun of the Nazis, but during the film it gradually changes. At the start they made fun of the Nazis through their version of the Slap dance but near the end the MC sang If you could see her through my eyes this is clearly an anti-Semitic gesture. The rise in Nazism coincides with the peoples choice in self-indulgence and irresponsibility. By the end of the film we see through the distorted mirror that even the Nazis have penetrated the cabaret. Where once they were kicked out for collecting money. This film shows us that life is not a cabaret and tells us to face up to our problems.