Aguirre, the Wrath of God, 1972

Posted: January 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

This video is comprised of different scenes of Aguirre showing his wrath. The first part of the clip is when Aguirre says that if he wants, “the birds to drop dead from the trees” then they will. He then states that he is “the wrath of God”. Aguirre sincerely believes that he has the power, given by God himself, to be an almighty force. Whatever he desires, he will get, no matter what the consequences may be. Aguirre does not value a human being’s life at all and will end one’s life without any feeling of regret or sorrow. In another part of the clip, Aguirre says that his men “measure riches and gold” and that it is more important to measure “power and fame”. Once again, Aguirre desires to obtain supreme power of the world and will kill as many people as necessary to do so. The narrator even says that Aguirre deliberately leads his men into destruction as a way to bring him to the top. The less people he has to compete with to obtain sole power, the easier it will become for him.

One of the major themes of this movie is that an extreme desire to become a man of power and fame leads to disaster not only for oneself, but also for those people who are in one’s path of obtaining that authority. Throughout the film, the audience is able to learn about the personality of Don Lope de Aguirre and discovers the striking similarities between him and Adolf Hitler. Both men would kill as many people as they wanted in order to attain tyrannical power. In the film, Aguirre, the Wrath of God, the main character Aguirre shot two of his own men and even hung Don Pedro de Ursua, the man who was originally appointed as leader of the exploratory team. Unfortunately for these people, they lost their lives because they were in the way of Aguirre becoming the most powerful man in the world. Because they were in his path, disaster struck them in the most violent ways one could imagine. After Aguirre appointed himself leader (once Guzman and Ursua were dead), he lead his team into the jungle to fight the Indian village. All of his men and even his daughter were killed in the battle. Losing his own daughter really shows the catastrophes that occur when one man strives for such power. This theme is taken one step further in the final scenes as he is alone on the raft. At this point, Aguirre is losing his mind even more and his raft is overtaken by wild monkeys. He says he wants to marry his own daughter and find the “purest dynast the world has ever seen.” Aguirre once again says, “I am the Wrath of God”. All in all, due to his selfish ways and desire for power, his situation did not end the way he was hoping for.

 Aguirre and his team in the jungle

 Aguirre alone on the raft

 Overrun by monkeys

Another theme present in this movie relates to the immortality and avarice of the Catholic Church with Brother Gaspar de Carvajal as its stand-in. For example, in one scene and Indian couple who was posing no threat was rowing in the water and was taken on board on one of the rafts. Brother Gasper hands him a bible and tells him it contains the Word of God and he puts it to his ear. Brother Gasper then stabs the man with his sword as the woman is sobbing and says, “These natives are hard to convert”. Later on in the film, Brother Gasper exhibits avarice speaking of finding a gold cross in El Dorado to replace his silver one.  Finally, the most shocking part of Brother Gasper’s behavior was when he decided to side with Aguirre and approved of his actions because of his belief that, “the church always stands with the strong”. What he means is that the Church maintains and extends its power by allying itself with the most powerful political elements, regardless of any moral considerations.

 Brother Gasper

Playtime, 1967

Posted: January 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

This scene in the 1967 movie, Playtime, directed by Jacques Tati, really stood out for a number of reasons. One reason was that it was simply funny to see a man run into a glass window because most people are able to relate to that experience and know how embarrassing it can be. There also seems to be a deeper meaning behind this scene which has to do with the modernization element presented throughout the film. In many scenes, the audience sees different buildings and airports that have glass walls, chrome doors, etc. This certainly gives the audience a representation of what the next generation of Paris, France may appear to look like. One of the goals of the film was to reveal what the business world may appear and how it will operate.

One of the themes of the film was that working in the modern, business world turns people into robots and the world becomes a very dull place. Each person is focused on his or herself and their ultimate focus is their work. The hundreds or even thousands of white-collared workers in the film seemed to be on a tight schedule and were always in a rush to get to their destination. At the beginning of the film, these people walked in straight lines and turned on sharp right angles. The only people who walked in a curvaceous and naturally human way were the working-class construction workers and two enthusiastic teens who loved listening to their music. Jacques Tati even attempted to show the robotic life of a white-collared worker through visual effects in the film. The technological effect Tati was going for was to make the film in color while making it look like it was filmed in black and white. The colors he predominantly used were shades of grey, blue, black, and greyish white. By using muted colors, Tati was successful in avoiding vibrant colors that would have shattered his intentions to show the lifelessness that can come about in a world filled with career-driven, business workers. In addition, there were little to no genuine green plants or trees on the set. Every person drove the same car and everyone even dressed similar with top hats and formal clothes. Each person worked and lived in the same cubicle.

 Cubicles in the workplace     

   

Cubicles at home

The other primary theme and message that Tati conveyed was to show a progression from the dull beginning of the movie to a more natural way of living at the climax of the film. For example, the character of Barbara arrived at the Royal Garden restaurant in an emerald green dress. She visually contrasts not only the other diners, but also with the entire physical environment of the film. As the characters in the restaurant begin to lose their normal social inhibitions and revel in the unraveling of their surroundings, Tati intensifies both color and lighting accordingly. The people in the restaurant finally learned to enjoy themselves by lightening up and having a good time. Another example of living in a healthier manner was when Barbara escaped the American tours and continually had to be called back. Barbara exemplified individualism in a number of instances in the film.

 Barbara’s green dress

Dr. Strangelove, 1964

Posted: January 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

In the movie, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, one of the funniest scenes in the movie occurs during a meeting in which Merkin Muffley (who is the President of the United States) and Dmitri (who is the leader of Russia) have a discussion over the phone. What makes this scene stand out is that the leaders of the two different countries take part in an incredibly unprofessional and hysterical conversation. Dr. Strangelove is a satire in regards to a serious increasing tension between world powers which, of course, is no laughing matter. Incredibly, however, the director of the film, Stanley Kubrick, displayed the war in a comedic fashion. For example, the audience was able to watch the two leaders argue over who was more sorry for the incident that occurred. In addition, Dmitri was drunk and playing music in the background.

One reason why this film is one of the best ever made and is essentially a theme of the movie is because of its ability to make an extremely horrifying matter (the Cold War) humorous. There were many characters in the movie that lightened the mood of war such as General Buck Turgidson played by George C. Scott. He had a variety of funny lines in the movie such as when he told the president, “Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops.” General Buck’s idea of the value of a human life as well as the facial expressions he uses when he says this makes this one of the most memorable quotes of all time. Another very funny character in the film is General Jack D. Ripper. For instance, perhaps his funniest moment in the movie was when he gave his troops three rules to follow which included him saying, “anyone or anything that approaches within 200 yards of the perimeter is to be fired upon.” It is important to remember that the Cold War was going on when this movie was released and to make a film that relieves some of the pressure of war through the use of comedy was vitally important.

 General Buck Turgidson

 General Jack D. Ripper

Another theme that Kubrick achieves in this movie is that he examined the psyche of a typical male at war, especially in regards to sex. In war, the men that go into battle are often away from their girlfriends or wives for an extended period of time. As a result, sex is frequently on the minds of the soldiers. This was shown in this film on a number of occasions. Although it was just a joke in the film, the fact that one of the officers in the beginning of the movie was looking at a Playboy magazine depicted what soldiers actually think about when they are out at war. Later on in the film, General Buck Turgidson told the secretary from the beginning of the movie “of course [our relationship] is not physical, I deeply respect you as a human being.” The funny part about this quote is that it is completely untrue. He is simply looking for a physical relationship in order to satisfy his needs as a man. In addition, General Ripper mentioned time and time again about “precious bodily fluids” and told Group Captain Lionel Mandrake his theory came about when he was making physical love.

 Officer looking at Playboy

 General Buck Turgidson

Vertigo, 1958

Posted: January 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Sequoia tree scene

This video clip is one of the most memorable scenes in the thriller, Vertigo which was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The main character, Scottie, and his girlfriend, Madeleine went to a forest full of sequoia trees in one of Scottie’s last moments with Madeleine before her “death”. During this moment in the movie, Scottie tells Madeleine that the scientific name for a sequoia tree actually means “always green, ever living.” The significance of this scene is that the sequoia trees remind her of her own mortality. Her immediate response to Scottie was that she said, “I don’t like it, knowing I have to die.”  The couple then looked at the cross-section of a felled tree, which shows how old the tree was when it was chopped down and suggests that the tree would have gone on living forever had it not been for human interference. This scene was slightly unclear yet very important because she appears to be both afraid of dying and scared to embrace life. Perhaps she knows her life will soon come to an end and she has no way to avoid it.

A reoccurring image that was seen throughout the film and is a symbol of the movie is a bouquet of flowers. The first time the audience was exposed to this symbol was when Scottie followed her to the flower shop and then to the art gallery. At the art gallery, she had a bouquet of flowers on the bench to her left while she was looking at a picture of Carlotta Valdes, who was holding a bouquet of flowers too. The meaning of this scene is to reveal to the audience as well as Scottie the similarity between the two women. The fact that they looked similar and carried the same bouquet of flowers foreshadows future events. The most notable occurrence of the bouquet of flowers was when Madeleine was standing at the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The plucking of the petals represents Madeleine’s fixation on self-destruction as she prepares to drown herself. Later on in the movie, Scottie has a dream in which a bouquet of flowers appears in a colorful, animated form. The bouquet swirls about and then violently disintegrates which symbolizes Madeleine’s brutal death.

 Flower shop scene

 Carlotta Valdes’ Bouquet

A motif in this movie is an idea of power and freedom. Power and freedom were thought of as privileges men had in the past but seemingly does not exist in the present. While discussing his nostalgia for the San Francisco of past years, Gavin Elster tells Scottie that he misses the times when men had “power and freedom.” In another scene in the movie, the audience is presented with this recurring idea again. Scottie is in a bookstore and is searching for information about Carlotta Valdes. The bookshop owner, Pop Leibel, told Scottie that the man who abandoned Carlotta and kept her child was able to do so without being reprimanded because he had the freedom and the power. It can be inferred that Scottie longs for the power and the freedom he once had in order to be the master of his own destiny which was before his near-death experience of falling of the top of the roof.

 Bookstore scene

 Near-death experience

Citizen Kane, 1941

Posted: January 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

One of the most memorable scenes in Citizen Kane was when Charles Foster Kane, as a young man, was discussing his newspaper business with his former guardian, Walter Parks Thatcher. In this scene, the audience begins to understand the personality of Charles Kane. Their conversation reveals that Kane is an extremely confident man (possibly overconfident or arrogant) with an intense and fiery personality. A very famous quote in this scene is when Thatcher tells Kane that his newspaper business cost him one million dollars last year and it would be unwise for him to continue running the newspaper. Kane replies by saying at a rate of losing one million dollar per year, he would have to shut down the company in sixty years. Kane is perfectly aware of how much money he has and it is humorous to see a man not even care to lose one million dollars. In addition to the conversation itself, Orson Welles did a great job with the sounds of the background. For about the first minute of this clip, the workers in the background are going about their business and the audience hears the sounds of them typing. As the conversation becomes more intense, the workers in the background stop their typing and turn to listen. Dropping the background noise changes the tone of the scene completely and the audience becomes even more focused and attentive to the illustrious words of Kane.

(Running a newspaper business)

  Deep Focus

Orson Welles and his cinematographer, Gregg Toland, came up with several new cinematography techniques that have significantly changed the way movies are made today. One of those methods is called “deep focus” which means that every point in the shot has sharp focus. Welles and Toland achieved this with a wide-angle lens to create a large depth-of-field. In the shot above, Kane’s parents, who are inside the house, are in focus as well as Kane himself who is playing in the snow outside. Another way Toland achieved deep focus was by taking two different shots and overlaying them on an optical printer. In the shot taken below, Kane was filmed by himself in sharp focus on the left side and then the other actor was filmed on the right by himself. Then the two shots were combined with both actors in focus.

 Deep focus through superimposing

The way low-angled shots were used in this movie helped Citizen Kane stand out compared to the movies of its time. An issue that Welles had to overcome was the fact that microphones and lights were in the shot when attempting to film from low angles. His solution was to build a ceiling that would drape down and the microphones would be hidden above the cloth. In addition, he cut holes into the floor of the set in order to attain the lowest angles possible. Lighting was also an important aspect of the cinematography in this film. The shot below conveys powerful backlighting which creates a silhouette effect of the actor in front and that person remains anonymous to the viewers. The smoke in the room actually helps to show the light beams that are penetrating into the room. The shot taken of Kane as an old man in front of the mirror is yet another impressive method Toland displays in this movie. Toland was able to position the camera in such a way as to show the multiple reflections of Kane without getting a reflection of the camera in the shot. The symbolic meaning of this shot is to show the reflection of Kane’s life as an old man.

 Low-angle shot

 Backlighting

 Reflecting Effect

Modern Times, 1936

Posted: January 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

One of my favorite scenes from Modern Times was when Charlie Chaplin was testing out the new eating machine that was introduced to him by the inventors when he was working on the assembly line. Not only was this a hilarious scene, it also holds a meaningful purpose. The mechanical device that fed Chaplin reveals just how far some people would go to get that little extra profit at the expense of the workers well-being.

(This is the scene when the inventors test their device on Chaplin)

One theme in this movie stands out above the rest. Charlie Chaplin’s ultimate message was to show the difficulty of life during the Great Depression. He uses comedy to communicate to the audience what he was trying to convey. For example, the work that Chaplin was doing in the beginning of the movie was extremely tedious and tiresome. Chaplin was working on an assembly line (which was a very common way of working during the Great Depression), tightening the screws on a piece of metal. He clearly displayed to the the audience the tediousness of assembly line work by having a nervous breakdown and tightening anything that looked like screws. Chaplin went as far as trying to tighten the buttons on a woman’s dress! For one particular family in the film, their life was especially difficult. This was a very poor family whose mother had died and whose father was unemployed. The eldest daughter stole bananas in order to feed her starving family. Later on in the movie, the father was shot and murdered and the children all became orphans. During the Great Depression, violence and crime occurred repeatedly by several people, most of the time to steal food for themselves or their loved ones. A very interesting scene was when Charlie asked the police officer if he could remain in jail longer because he was so happy there. This was because he would always have food to eat and a place to stay. As a night watchman for a department store, he would sneak food to his girlfriend and was even robbed for food by a man he knew from a previous job. This continuous crime surely depicts the struggles people went through and says a lot considering many people disregarded personal morals.

 Assembly line

 Poor orphans

Another major theme in Modern Times is the notion that each individual person is really just a part of a larger whole. Although one may attempt to distinguish him or herself as an individual, it may not have been in one’s best interest to do so. This idea is especially prevalent in the scenes in which Charlie Chaplin was essentially forced through social pressures to go on strike against the companies he was working for. The entire system of how work was being done at the time tells a great deal about how each person is just part of something bigger. The typical American worker was just treated as labor that can be easily replaced in the 1920’s and 1930’s and the only concern of the boss was the ability of his workers to keep up with quotas. In the opening scenes, Chaplin’s boss was hoping to get every penny out of his employees by watching over every station with a video monitor. When he went to the bathroom to take a short break and have a cigarette, his boss’ face appeared on the monitor to yell at him and tell him to get back to work. He even went as far as testing out a machine that would serve his employees lunch as they worked in order to increase production.

 Charlie Chaplin on strike

 Boss on video monitor

Metropolis, 1927

Posted: January 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

 One of the most memorable scenes from Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang, was when Freder, son of Joh Fredersen, took over on the machine that Joh’s worker was operating. He started out fine but towards the end of the shift, he was in enormous pain and was clearly suffering. The clock scene was very significant in the fact that Freder represented a Christ-like figure as both his arms were hanging from the clock and his body was drooped downwards, similar to the way Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross.

(This is the clock scene when Freder was working the machine)

There are various themes that can be discovered in this movie. One of the themes of Metropolis is technology. The future of technology is displayed several times throughout the movie such as when Freder sees Metropolis for the first time. In the city, there are a combination of train-like vehicles, airplanes, and old-style cars. There are also gigantic skyscrapers and other buildings which present a futuristic to the audience. The ultimate expression of technology exists in the Machine-Man herself. Her entire metal exterior is gold in color and she is a robot that Rotwang has control over. Robots in multiple movies are thematic of the future and what the world will be like in upcoming generations. Also, in the background of Rotwang’s laboratory were numerous unknown devices that show what technology may appear to be in the future.   

       Metropolis

       Machine-Man

          Rotwang’s Laboratory

Another theme that exists in this film is the relations between the social classes. In the film, Joh Fredersen founded and runs Metropolis. He is an autocratic ruler and he has his workers underground which is right where they should be in the scheme of the world. The needs and safety of the workers mean nothing to Joh and he could care less if one of them dies from an industrial accident. In the relationship between the social classes, Joh is certainly of the highest class possible in Metropolis and has all the power. The blue-collar workers, on the other hand, are of the lower class in the city and are struck by poverty. These workers are viewed simply as mechanisms or extensions of the machines they are working on. Perhaps the film’s director, Fritz Lang, was trying to convey a message to the audience of Germany’s power struggles and issues of poverty and conflict which was present in Germany at the time the movie was made.

                                             

                                               Joh Fredersen

The theme of love is also an important one in Metropolis. Although the love between Freder and Maria did not last particularly long before she was kidnapped by Rotwang, they still showed a love for one another. This love was first seen in the beginning of the movie when Freder saw Maria for the first time. She was a glistening figure who was surrounded by dozens of poor children. Immediately, Freder was attracted to her and wanted to be with her. Their love was intensified later on in the film after Freder worked with his “brothers” underground and saw Maria once again. In Freder’s eyes, Maria was as beautiful as ever. The theme of love was shown once more when Rotwang demanded Maria to fall in love with Joh. Freder saw this and was heartbroken.

                                            

                                          Freder and Maria