Norden, Martin F. "The Avant-Garde Cinema of the 1920s: Connections to Futurism, Precisionism, and Suprematism." Leonardo 17.2 (1984): 108-12.
In this book, Martin Norden discusses the ways in which Futurism, Cubism, and Precisionism appear in film. Taking into considerations films of the 1920s, Norden discusses how each of these movements have influenced films and the ways in which one would be able to spot the attributes of these movements in film. Going into detail into what constitutes each of these artistic factions, Norden offers a unique way for viewers to pick up on directors’ subtle use of set designs in order to convey a message latent in the film.
Metropolis’s set design, specifically its city landscape, utilizes two of these movements to help Lang further his theme of the overbearing upper-world versus the underbelly where the workers thrive. Futurism and Precisionism both come into play in the ways in which Lang conveys the city, helping pronounce how the juxtaposition of the architecture movements between the futuristic metropolis and the ancient ruins of below reveal the individual motivations of the working class and the ruling class. Futurism shows up in much of the working class world, giving the workers an almost mechanical motion taking the humanity out of them. The very place in which they work is built around the idea of Futurism, having the machines have very intricate and specific designs, symbolizing the very jobs of the workers. Precisionism, an American idea of using sharp geometric shapes in the city landscape, is also very prominent in Metropolis. This movement adding an aspect of passionless intent to the upper-world, the sharp design of most of the buildings reveals a character attribute of the cold, heartless rulers of this world.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1997.M436 M48 2000
The chapter concerning architecture covers a large array of issues concerned with the structure of the buildings and thus their symbolic meaning for the film. The two authors discuss how that there is a mixture of architectural styles that lacks “uniformity and balance” but by putting these two side by side, it emphasizes the coexistence of two conflicting ideologies. The large buildings that make up the majority of the city landscape cannot be anything without the older, cathedral like buildings. This juxtaposition conveys the idea of technological progression. Additionally, it is this necessity of having the older buildings, like Rotwang’s place and the catacombs, and the larger, extravagant building, like the modern Tower of Babel, that makes Lang’s message of the dangers of the dehumanization quality of technology possible. The architecture in this sense is essential for the main purpose of the film to shine through.
Jurkiewicz, Kenneth. "Using Film in the Humanities Classroom: The Case of "Metropolis"." The English Journal 79.3 (1990): 47-50.
This article gives a detailed description of the film Metropolis by Fritz Lang. Giving insight into the overall plot of the film, the article also outlines the many different character motivations that make the film such a classic. With descriptions and histories of all the main characters, the article provides the reader the opportunity to understand the motivation of the character's action as well as an insight into the psyche of the characters. Additionally, the ending of the article provides critical reading questions that allow the reader to think about the film in terms of it s historical context as well as their own interpretation of Metropolis.
This excerpt written by Kennith Jurkiewicz gives specific examples of Maria as the biblical figure that I argue her to be and how it relates to the architecture of the lower level catacombs. Comparing her to a "futuristic John the Baptist," Jurkiewicz adds to my argument that Lang's clear comparison between Maria, the voice of hope to the working class, and John the Baptist, the voice of the second coming of Jesus Christ, allowed her to sway the hearts of men, both the real "good" Maria and the robotic imposter. This comparison to the biblical figure of John the Baptist gives clear point that it was this complete power to plea to the ethos of the working class, which drew from the motherly intuition of Maria, that made her such an iconic figure to this group of people. This, along with the description of the catacombs offered in the other source, give an understanding of the Christian symbolism that is not only being emphasized by Maria but also the catacombs where she sends her message. The catacombs act as an amplifier of the message of Maria, adding to the importance of the architecture to the film.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1998.3.L36 M38 1997
In this chapter of the book, Patrick McGilligan discusses the beginnings of Metropolis. Clearly grabbing influence from the Manhattan landscape, Lang describes how the buildings represented the human plight of the city dwellers. Even the novel in which the film was inspired, the author, Thea von Harbou, discusses how her vision of the city is also similar to the New York skyline. “’The houses dissected into cones and cubes by the moving scythes of the searchlights gleamed, towering up, hoveringly, light flowing down their flanks like rain’”(McGilligan 111). This chapter also describes the way in which different architecture styles came together to form this futuristic city outline that has become synonymous with Metropolis. Additionally, the rest of the chapter delves into the rest of the decisions that went into the designing and artistic view of the film. The talk about how they would use a futuristic language and how casting went.
In terms of the architecture of the film, McGilligan’s novel discusses in depth the thought processes that when into this important aspect of the film. Explaining how Lang wished to infuse Cubisit and Futruist art style into the city landscape truly allowed the symbolic use of the buildings have the impact it did. Not only did this infusion allow the viewer get a clear understanding of the futuristic idea of the city, the daunting and oppressive nature of the buildings and their placement makes them feel as if they themselves are the workers being suppressed to the lower levels of the city. The buildings themselves act as the very means as to give this feeling of being less then those who live up on the very top of these monstrosities. Furthermore, the twisted and abstractness of the buildings’ designs described in this chapter of the book add to the idea of unrealism that the movie seems to take. This distortion of reality adds to the suspension of belief that the viewer takes on to understand the deeper message of the destructive nature of technology as seen through the architectures design.
Susan Smith "Metropolis: restoration, reevaluation". CineAction. . FindArticles.com. 30 Nov. 2008. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb3148/is_66/ai_n29174572
In this article Susan Smith describes the restored edition of Metropolis and dives into an in-depth analysis on many aspects of the film. In certain points taking the mindset of Fredersen and Rotwang into perspective, Smith adds a unique discussion towards these characters that are not the focus of the film and how their past history that just recently came out in the restored version adds an interesting dynamic to their relationship. Additionally, Smith really delves into the progression of the father-son relationship and how the plot actually fosters such a look into the Fredersens’ relationship with one another.
Smith’s interpretation of the progression of the city landscape to the lower levels of the catacombs as an attempt to describe Fredersen Sr. escapes from his past, specifically his wife adds an additional depth to my original idea of the importance of the architecture. The architecture in Metropolis, in this interpretation, has a direct connection with his attempt to build away from a past that he wishes to forget. Smith even goes further and argues that the layers of the city act as a manifestation of Fredersen’s mind with the catacombs acting as his subconscious. This view of the architecture seems to fit perfectly with the idea that Fritz Lang used the structures of the buildings in order to convey ideas of the characters and the biblical illusions he wished to use to further the meaning of the movie thus creating a masterpiece that did not even need sound to speak to a generation. It is this unique use of the natural architecture of the catacombs and the man made monstrosities of the city to discuss the loss of humanity from the loss of nature.
White, L. Michael. "In the Catacombs." PBS.org. Apr. 1998. 18 Nov. 2008 <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/first/catacombs.html>.
This article gives a description of the Christian catacombs in Rome. Detailing the intricate system of tunnels in this historic city, Professor L. Michael White explains how these catacombs became an integral part in the early Christian movement. Comparing them to “colonies of ants,” the article gives an interesting insight into how these burial areas became comparable to elaborate homes with painting depicting the classic biblical stories.
In relation to Metropolis, the catacombs were the safe haven of the hopes and dreams of the working class. With its rocky, earthy look, the architecture of the catacombs just adds to the Christian ideals that were being preached in the depths of the earth. The location of the catacombs symbolically represents the essential ideals that the character Maria hopes to instill within the crowd she speaks to. As the article expresses, these catacombs were used as a hiding place for Christians during ages of prosecution and an area where they would be able to pray without fear of being caught. This purpose clearly becomes important in the film, where Maria is able to preach to the masses of the arrival of a savior (comparable to the second coming of Jesus Christ) without the worry of oppression from the world above. It is the fact that the architecture is not like that of the luxurious, extravagant style of the upper world that allows the viewer to understand how the workers are desiring a more earthly, spiritual end compared to the demigods of the Metropolis on the surface.
Ginzberg, Louis. "The Tower of Babel." About.com. 18 Nov. 2008 <http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/bl/bl_text_jewslegends1d.htm#_ednthe%20tower%20of%20babel>.
Giving a brief history of the Tower of Babel, Louis Ginzberg highlights the important aspects of the biblical story that led to the creation of different languages. The story goes that in an act of rebellion against G-d, Nimrod agreed to build a tower of epic proportions that would reach to the heavens. It was in this hope that Nimrod and his counselors hoped to wage war with G-d himself and show their true power. As the building of the tower continued, the workers began shooting arrows into the heavens and as the cam hurtling down, they were covered in blood, seemingly confirming their belief that they are slaying those in the heavens. Upon seeing this, G-d decided to send down his angels and “confound their language.” This is where the origin of different languages stems from and it was this confounding of languages that denied the workers the ability to continue working on the tower because they could not understand each other.
This biblical story of the Tower of Babel plays a significant role in the interpretation of the architecture used in Metropolis. At the center of this futuristic city skyline lays a gargantuan tower that holds homage to the story of Babel. Much in the same way that Nimrod used it to defy the glory of G-d, Frederson had the building erected so that he could watch over his city, an attempt to feed to his demigod mentality. It is in this sense of revealing the psyche of the “Nimrod” of our story that Fritz’s placement of this futuristic Tower of Babel becomes crucial to the interplay of architecture of story. It is in this very sense that the viewer gets an understanding of the snobbish, elitist mentality of Frderson and how the very erection of the tower feeds to his idea of greater and lesser human beings.
Staumann, Barbara. "Rewriting American Foundational Myths in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest." American Foundational Myths. Ed. Martin Heusser and Gudrun Grabher. Narr: Tubingin, 2002. 201-214.
Call#: Van Pelt Library BL304 .A44 2002
In this article Barbara Straumann describes what she considers to be an Oedipal journey: escaping from an overbearing mother and two ex-wives and fleeing into the countryside. For her argument, she considers the crop-dusting scene to be of incredible significance. While waiting for clandestine meeting with Kaplan in Northern Indiana, we see Thornhill as somewhat of a lone soldier thrown into the field of battle. This is certainly observed as a crop-duster with a gun barrels down upon him. She also mentions how he is recognizable as somewhat of a cowboy, trapped alone in a dusty field. Extrapolating the belief that he represents a soldier and a cowboy, two traditionally manly jobs, our hero can be understood as a masculine element, single-handedly fighting against the two groups who are fighting against each other. She sees Thornhill as a character that undergoes great personal growth due to the dangerous situations he is forced into.
Another argument that she alludes to but does not expand upon in depth is the patriotic undertones embodied by the film. Many elements of the film, from the cowboy imagery in a Midwest corn field, the lone journey into the unknown, to the climactic fight literally on the faces of the U.S. founding fathers convey a sense of independence from oppressing forces and the American way. Hitchcock brought in many different pro-American elements in order to emphasize the ‘Rough Rider' nature of the protagonist, from the Frank Lloyd Wright lookalike house to the daring fight scene on Teddy Roosevelt. The imagery Hitchcock employs serves to heighten the audience's concern for Thornhill, a man who is fighting against foreign spies by embodying the American spirit.
Farber, Stephen, and Estelle Changas. "The Graduate." Film Quarterly 21 (1968): 37-41. JSTOR. UPenn, Philadelphia. 8 Apr. 2008. Keyword: charles webb graduate.
In this film review of The Graduate, Farber and Changas offer criticism that I have never seen before. Not only do they offer different opinions of the film and its characters, but they also misinterpret symbols. This makes the review interesting to read but not very helpful to someone who hasn't seen the movie. The authors note that after 1960s counterculture films with "teenyboppers and acid heads, The Graduate...tells it like it is." Although Benjamin Braddock is a champion debater, they notice that throughout the movie he has trouble forming simple sentences when talking to adults. The "phoniness of suburban society" permeates the film. The intuitive soundtrack leads us to think that the film contains the same insight as Simon and Garfunkel, but Benjamin cannot even think the same way. They see him as "stupid and awkward, not sensitive and alienated." They also see comedy in the scene where he sees Mrs. Robinson naked as opposed to the serious introspection that these shots give the viewer. To them Ben is insensitive to Mrs. Robinson, and a very shallow character. As far as symbolism goes, the colors black and white are more of a "coloring-book morality play" instead of symbols of the cold values of one society and rebellious values of the other. This use of colors is "a cheap dramatic trick" to discern the two generations. Another interesting criticism of the authors is that they find Nichols inexperienced in filmmaking. The lack of a love story and absence of sexual scenes is a failure in their eyes.
One criticism that actually manifests one of Nichols' arguments is that the young characters in the movie act too maturely. The critics state that the film "is an insult to young people who aren't so goody-goody." The truth is that the young people are only mature and "goody-goody" because their parents' generation makes them this way. Their value system makes the youth appear and act this way although they are dying to do things differently. Another bad criticism is how they find the scuba diving scene too "self-conscious." The truth is that the critics don't have the intelligence to understand or mention the significance of drowning, unlike Schuth. Nichols certainly knew what he was doing, even though Farber and Changas think otherwise.
In his letter to the editor of the PMLA, Walter Shear argues that Robert L. Carringer’s analysis of Kane’s character in “Rosebud, Dead or Alive: Narrative and Symbolic Structure in Citizen Kane” is overly complex and fails to see the obvious simplicity of the film. Carringer argues that Kane’s personality is a pastiche of the multiple viewpoints of all his closest acquaintances, and that this distorts any seemingly objective display or definitive account of the actual character. Carringer argues his case citing that the only way Kane’s character is revealed in the film is through interviews with close friends, associates and family members. As a result, the character, he argues, is subjected to the various biases of those describing him to the inquiring reporter, Jerry Thompson. Mr. Shear argues on the contrary that Kane’s character is revealed through his desire for people to love him. As Shear cites, “’Love… that’s why he did everything. That’s why he went into politics.’” He states that this relatively simple view can closely describe Kane’s actions and ambitions. Not only does it support Kane’s decision to run into politics; it also justifies Kane’s desire for his paper to have a personal relationship with each one of his readers. He also has multiple relationships in his young adulthood. Shear states that this quest for love could be a search to replace his mother as a source of love in his life. (This being a result of being snatched from his family at too young an age.)
Shear convincingly describes the motives of Charles Foster Kane’s impulses in life – politics, running a newspaper because it would be fun and enthusiastically underwriting his second wife’s singing career – all in an effort to gain acceptance and be adored by the public. With this knowledge in hand, one can very easily watch the film and understand some of the seemingly rash decisions that the character of Kane makes. Who in their right mind, with so many alternatives, choose to run a faltering newspaper “because it looks fun?” With a secure personal fortune and no need to earn money, it would make sense that a person in such a situation would seek to find personal gratification of a love that was never present in childhood.
Bialostocki, J. (1981).Forman's Cuckoo's Nest, its composition and symbolism. Artibus et Historiae. 2, 159-162.
In “Composition and Symbolism,” Jan Bialostocki describes the technique and imagery that Forman uses in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to comment on the social dynamics of groups, and the constant struggle of individual expression versus normative stability. The article begins by invoking the imagery in Cuckoo's Nest's opening and closing sequences. The vast landscape that the mental hospital in the film resides in plays an important symbolic role—in the beginning of the film, it is a visual representation of the isolation and confinement of the inmates, while at the end of the film, the image of the Chief running into the distance of the landscape signifies the escape from such a closed world. Bialostocki also asserts that the isolated psychiatric ward is a metaphor for the human world in general. Within the confines of this environment, we can observe the facets and problems of human nature, such as the dependence of the inmates on one another and their need to participate in community life. McMurphy, as a rogue figure, acts as a catalyst for this human nature. Before his arrival, the inmates are meek and mellowed by the drugs they are taking, and the strictly regulated system they are forced to abide by. Once he arrives, however, he liberates them from this rigidity, allowing them to release their inhibitions and inciting in them real, human emotions and reactions. Although freeing, this also introduces conflict to their previously uncomplicated existence. By pursuing their individual needs and impulses, they in turn sacrifice the order and comfort of the community. McMurphy's individuality walks the thin line between freedom and anarchy, and eventually results in a tragic finish. In the end, McMurphy is defeated by the system which beats down dissent, and treats individuals as though they cannot make their own decisions. Only the Chief is affected and liberated by McMurphy's actions as he makes his escape. The other inmates return to their formerly grey lives. Having seen the destruction that human emotion and freedom can bring about, they revert back to the passionless, vegetative comfort of their old system of norms, thus letting go of the of innovation and expression they enjoyed for that short period of time.
This article is interesting because it brings to light the meaning and symbolism behind this story. It is not merely a critique of the institution-based mental health system, but a commentary on human society in general. According to the article, illuminates the problems inherent in society, and the difficult trade-off between group safety and security and individual expression.
Call#: Van Pelt Library P94.6 .M673 2007
Morley then turns to examining newer media technologies, with the purpose of refuting the concept that with new media comes new social and cultural uses for that media. He argues that while technologies like cell phones and computers do bring with them new ways of consumption, their arrival does not signal the death of traditional social rituals. Living traditions tend to incorporate new technologies rather than become obsolete in the face of media development. This fits with Michele White’s ideas on spectatorship, thus providing a non-traditional viewpoint to help me balance my paper.
That this book focuses very little on a viewer’s actual engagement with the screen prevents this source from becoming a major on for my paper. However, I do think that some of the ideas present here and Morley’s background on the evolution of these technologies can give me some good basic background information, as a foundation for my arguments.
In The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, Spoto discusses many of the motifs found in Hithcock’s films. Water is frequently used to symbolize create turmoil, seen in Lifeboat with the stormy uncertain waters. Water also is the impetus for the survivors to rise up against the deceptive Nazi who had hidden his secret supply from the others, even killing to keep it a secret.
Jewelry is also a common Hitchcockian theme. It frequently represents false value. Connie equates her bracelet with good luck, saying that she will never take it off for fear of what would happen. The survivors are only saved, ironically, with her removal of the bracelet and its eventual loss. Hithcock also equates the bracelet with power. Connie is never able to fasten the clasp. Initially, she turns to Kopac for help, but eventually, the Nazi Willie is the only one who can fix her bracelet.
Hitchcock also suggests that transit sparks romance. The Nurse and the Radio officer slowly develop a relationship with him eventually proposing. Sexual tension also exists between Connie and Kopec. The trip also forces Gus to think only about his Rosie back in New Jersey, frequently questioning if he will ever see her again.
Spoto also suggests that the items that pass through the water in the opening represent the film’s main themes: The New Yorker symbolizes a society troubled in its foundation; the chess board symbolizes intellect useless in solving their situation; playing cards represent excessive leisure which allow Willie to successfully cement control over the ship.
While many criticize Lifeboat for its portrayal of Willie as an Aryan superman, Spotto suggests that people would be more offended by his humanity. His singing of German anthems and appreciation of music gives him a quality no one wanted to associate with Nazis. (This humanity is intentional as Walter Slezak who played Willie claimed his character was given curls in an effort to look more innocent.) Conversely, the “rabid pack of dogs” that were the other survivors prove unappealing at the end when they finally organize as one. Americans could only view a Nazi not as human or superhuman but as inhuman.