Essay Samples

Art in the movie Six Degrees of Separation

Table of contents

    This paper will discuss the role of art in the Six Degrees of Separation that is presented in the film. By analyzing such works as the Kandinski painting, that appears in the movie, as well as the New York art scene projected in the movie, we can see how it a n integral part of the movie. By analyzing the art of this movie, we can see how the role of this format plays into the theme within it.

    One of the central images explored in Six Degrees of Separation is a two-sided painting, that playwright John Guare describes as “one side…geometric and somber. The other side is wild and vivid.” The painting is attributed to Wasily Kandinsky (aka Vasily Vasilyevich, 1866-1944), a celebrated artist whose career spanned the turn of the last century. In the movie, the character Ouisa Kittredge (Stockard Channing) tells us about the nature of the painting by Kandinski and how it is symbolic of the chaotic side of the painting’s dualism. She says: “Chaos, control. Chaos, control. You like, you like?” (Movie) Making this the question that explains the dual role of the play in its relationship to the art. The writer of this play intentionally made these pieces of art to show that there is some “cohesiveness to the control verses chaos side to elements that make up the society this movie is about.” (Maltin p.188) Though it is about wealthy people in the art and their lifestyle, it is obvious that the notion of chaos and control are very cleverly placed in the art symbolism.

    The images of the movie that tells us the role of the chaos that lies beneath the central character Paul, whom is played by Will Smith creates a chaotic side to the wealthy people that he cons. He states in the movie:

    “Paul (Will Smith) I believe the imagination is the passport that we create to help take us into the real world. I believe the imagination is merely another phrase for what are most uniquely us. Jung says, "The greatest sin is to be unconscious.” (Movie)

    This is the basis for imagination in art that we so often in the symbolism of the movie. The painting by Kandinski is only a reflection of the elements that seek a higher basis within the efforts of Paul to coerce the wealthier family into understanding the nature of art and imagination in this film. The way that it is shown, is I the words, that Paul has spoken above, that relate the inner message of the movie that tell us the art foundations that have been expressed here. Paul continues on saying:

    “The imagination. It's there to sort out your nightmare, to show you the exit from the maze of your nightmare, to transform the nightmare into dreams that become your bedrock. If we do not listen to that voice, it dies, it shrivels, it vanishes. The imagination is not our escape. On the contrary, the imagination is the place we are all trying to get to.” (movie)

    This is the character Paul, whom is trying to make a point in the way that art is a part of everyone’s life. It describes the nature of people in their relationship to the arts and why people are so determined to seek it out. The deeper notions of the creative powers of a human being are expressed here in the dialogue that is present. The Kandinski painting holds a place in this film as an example of the dual nature of the film and it plot. On one side is the security of the wealthy New York family, while on the other side is the character Paul who is from the streets and possesses an extraordinary sense of intelligence, that is used to con the people that he is now involved with.

    John Guare's writing, the author of the play/movie, is inspired by the art world, and never more vividly than through the character of Flanders and his love for Impressionists such as Van Gogh, Matisse, Kandinsky and Cézanne. Kandinsky's painting holds a prominent place in my set design, and we must look to it for inspiration, understanding, and enlightenment. It is a two-sided composition, order on one side and chaos on the other; a single work of art expressing opposing themes; a representation of the tension that exists between Romanticism and Expressionism.

    The Romantic perspective might suggest order and that no matter what events occur at any given time, everyone lives happily ever after. Expressionism has an element of disorder or randomness that may be upsetting to some. To others though, it is a very freeing and fulfilling experience as they enjoy the sheer energy and creative burst of colors represented in the work, and “perhaps the corresponding existence of imagination in their lives.” (Maltin p.77)

    In the movies art symbolism, “Cezanne would leave white spaces in his paintings if he could not account for the brush stroke.” (Janson p.188) The apartment furnishings and the wardrobe of this Upper East Side Manhattan family are in order, with minimalist brush strokes of monochromatic design, signifying that all is right with the world. In the play, successful and accomplished families open up their homes and their hearts to a complete stranger…trying to connect to the universe…to fill that void that is not accounted for…that white space that needs to be filled. But as we watch Ouisa struggle with her self-examination to define her relationship with Paul and Flanders, we beg her to ask, “Where is the color in my life?” (movie) And we remember what Paul said, that the imagination is God's gift to make the act of self-examination bearable.

    In conclusion, we can see the elements dualism in the film, and how this is major part of the film. The use of art as a medium to play out these roles is very clearly made. The Kandisnki painting clearly shows the themes of the movie and how the cast interprets the work of art. The players in the movie/play are playing the same dual roles with each, while constantly switching into each other shows. The methods of academic writing tell us the nature of the imagination that all of the characters strive for and how they end up in their lives. The main themes of the Guare movie is that there are two opposing forces that he chooses to inform us with: The chaos and the order within the people’s lives. This is the main essence that makes the play revolve around and life, as Kandinski and other painters have revealed here, and how they seem to clash together into a more cohesive whole. This movie was a learning experience in the connectedness of the players in the movie, while telling the viewer that there is more than a movie going on here, but rather, is a learning experience about how people are interrelated by the themes of art that are constantly thrust into the play.


    • Janson, H.W., Anthony F. Janson, The History of Art, Abrams,Harry N Inc, March 2001.
    • Maltin, Leonard, (Editor), Rob Edelman (Editor), Contribution by Pete Hammond, Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide, N A L, July 2001
    • Schepisi, Six Degrees of Separation, MGM, 1993.

    It is easy to check materials for uniqueness using our high-quality anti-plagiarism service.

    Order now »