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Brecht was known for his anti-fascist and anti-capitalist views, and the majority of his plays bear an imprint of their author’s ideology. The Threepenny Opera presents an allegory of the European society at the time of Great Depression, when a number of nations, including Brecht’s homeland, Germany, became susceptible to an allure of fascist ideology.
The character of Mack the Knife, a notorious gang leader of London’s slums, is clearly modeled after the real-life figures of Hitler and Mussolini. Both these dictators relied upon the support of impoverished petty-bourgeoisie and lower-class elements, before joining forces with the traditional elites and effectively betraying their initial social base. Just as Mack in The Threepenny Opera, fascist leaders of the 1920s to 1930s combined an anti-establishment demagoguery with a willingness to co-operate with the ruling circles.
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Tiger Brown’s visit to Mack’s wedding, where the former sits near the bandits, may be construed as an allusion to friendly attitude displayed by the German military towards the Nazi movement and its leader. While Tiger Brown is clearly not a direct prototype for Field Marshal Hindenburg, the similarities between these characters cannot be ignored.
Peachum, who is portrayed as a shadowy leader of London’s beggars, lives in riches that are generated by the latter’s labor. Thus, his character may be regarded as a metaphorical portrayal of wealthy industrialist and financier classes. His relationship with Mack is rather contradictory; while he is extremely displeased to hear the news of his daughter Polly’s marriage to Mack, Peachum is quick to change his opinion when the latter is released and knighted. Such development, in turn, parallels the changes in attitude that German industrialists underwent when dealing with Hitler: disdain and mistrust at the beginning, followed by complete recognition and glorification in the end.
While the end of The Threepenny Opera is demonstrably forced, an intelligent viewer with knowledge of Brecht’s political background will easily understand the full symbolism of miraculous intervention of the Queen that makes Mack a person of high society. From now on, Mack, his friend Tiger Brown and Peachum would be the part of the same establishment, dutifully serving their shared class interests.
In the 1930s Hollywood film industry, the traditional one-person narratives were increasingly supplanted with the new forms of presentation that enabled film makers to make use of several characters’ points of view. While previously camera was static and the display of dialogue between characters fraught with difficulties, the 1930s technical innovations allowed for the new forms of montage that made multiple perspectives a reality. The camera innovations allowed for presenting a film’s action from the point of view of specific characters, with subsequent switches between these perspectives. In addition, synchronous display of objects and character features animated the film action, as it was now sufficient to use one shot to provide for multiple action in the same scene.
While a direct influence of West European cubist art may often be hardly discerned in the 1930s American films, its presence is now commonly recognized. Together with an introduction of multiple layers and the changes to musical support, this new, ‘cubist’ mode of presentation has made film production more dramatized and subjective than ever.
The narrative structure of Citizen Kane is a spectacular example of the cubist perspective. The narrators featured in this film may be divided into two groups: the supporting characters, whose monologues on Kane let the viewers grasp the complexity of the former’s personality (as well as the inner world of the respective characters), and the ‘objective’ camera narrative.
However, this ‘objectivity’ should not mislead the viewer. Its main function is to present a narrative of Kane himself. Several famous sequences from Citizen Kane are testimony to this claim. For instance, when Kane is shown walking between the set of mirrors, his image appears to be reflecting itself for infinity. Therefore, this scene may be considered a symbol of the vastness of Kane’s personality, or of his ambitions. In any case, it demonstrates once again that the film’s narrative runs around one person and that its ostensible objectivity is itself subjective.
One of the most prominent features of Italian Neo-Realism is its persistent refusal to follow standard forms of a plot or drama development. In fact, the majority of Neo-Realist films are based on episodic narratives, with their characters’ wanderings and vicissitudes of fate that seem unconnected. While action in the American 1930s films is built on drama, a typical Neo-Realist film excels at repetition. In this sense, Neo-Realism is antithetical to dramaturgical effects in cinematography.
In its narrative, La Strada follows an episode-based design that is typical for Neo-Realist (anti)-dramatic style. Fellini eschews cause-and-effect linkages between different episodes of the film, preferring to present its events in their naked state of being. The plot of La Strada is not subject to any logical or romantic conventions; its development is purely illogical, and even implausible.
The actions of both Zampanó and Gelsomina often defy the viewer’s expectations, and the rewards or troubles that these characters have to face are scarcely logically connected. For instance, reticence displayed by the police in dealing with Zampanó after Il Mato’s murder runs against both the former’s fears and the viewer’s expectations. Unlike the Hollywood films oriented towards dramatic sequences, La Strada culminates in the internal rebirth of Zampanó, which is not affined to the dramatic experiences that might befall him. Fellini’s characters’ evolution is never linear; it is subject to frequently unusual alterations.
Therefore, La Strada conforms to the core principle of Neo-Realist film. Its plot development is not bound with cause-and-effect or moralistic assumptions, and its narrative presentation is based on being, not becoming. Each scene of the film is effectively isolated from one another.
While Vertigo is often a subject of fierce debate as to its cinematic value, it is undoubtedly one of the most memorable Hitchcock’s films. The plot of this masterpiece of 1958 is built on the notion of obsession, as both Madeleine and Scottie become engulfed in a neurotic spell that leads them down the path of death and insanity.
The symbols of obsession present themselves to the viewer from the very beginning of the film. With Scottie chasing Madeleine across various landscapes of San Francisco and beyond, the audience becomes exposed to apparently incessant images of grim and macabre architecture, of the dreary landscapes and labyrinths of doors that finally end in the protagonist’s reunion with Madeleine. Finally, the reunion culminates in Madeleine’s tragic death.
Cursed with acrophobia, Scottie is unable to save his beloved from falling from the church’s rooftop. He develops a new obsession, where the visage of late Madeleine becomes a focus of an almost fetishistic longing. When he meets Judy, whose appearance is unsettlingly similar to that of Madeleine, he falls in love with the girl, merely due to her stunning semblance to his dead love. Eventually, though, Judie falls to her death from another bell tower, with her demise brought about by Scottie’s obsessive jealousy. The visual parallelism seen in these sequences, which mirror each other, can scarcely be accidental.
The use of camera in Vertigo helps enhance the overwhelming sense of obsession that reigns over the film. It is not a coincidence that scenes of the character’s romantic interaction are accompanied with the changes in camera’s point of view that resemble an image of vortex. As the viewer sees the story mainly through Scottie’s eyes, these vertigo-inducing switches of camera unearth the symbolic meaning of the film’s title. Likewise, the color scheme used in the film, with the prevalence of gloomy and darkened tones in the scenes of Scottie’s desperate obsession, serves to raise the emotional tensions experienced by the protagonist when his dreams turn into nightmares.
To summarize, Hitchcock’s philosophical quest for accurately reflecting a theme of obsession is expertly supplemented with the intense visual effects that heighten the sense of apprehension and psychotic fixation that the characters of Vertigo are doomed to.
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