“I non-linear documentary which makes extensive suggestions about
“I think people talk too much” Antonioni. Write an essay on two films on the course that champion images and/or music over words Film does not simply function to entertain; it is created to make suggestions about the wider society. Furthermore these suggestions and themes are not simply stated, but must be tactically revealed through filmic devices. Whilst traditionally, dialogue is the driving force of cinema functioning to reveal relationships and themes, some directors have gone against this tradition, and championed images and music over words as their primary filmic device.It should be noted, that although images and music can function alone, there are complementary devices, and when used in conjunction can often be more effective (Flinn, 2000).
Vertov’s 1929 Man with a Movie Camera is a multi-linear documentary whilst Melville’s 1967 Le Samourai is a fictional crime thriller. Although completely contrasting narrative types, they both employ this idea of using images and music as their primary filmic device rather than words and dialogue. The central themes in Man with a Movie Camera are the progression of the Soviet Union, celebration of film, as well as the relationship between man and machine.Le Samourai similarly employs devices of images and music to reveal ideals of isolation and solitude, existential ideals of freedom in death and motif’s of the city as a jungle. In analysing the differences and similarities in their use of images and music to reveal their respective themes and idea’s, over two completely different types of film, one can understanding the potential power of these devices over words and dialogue. Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera is a non-speaking, non-linear documentary which makes extensive suggestions about the progression of the Soviet Union, which all must be attributed to use of image and music.The first way this is done is through juxtaposition of images, as we see the abacus give way to cash registers, manual sewing replaced by the sewing machine and manual labour’s give way to machines.
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These images are underscored by fast, brass-based music which is never static, which further gives the impression of the positive, fast, stalwart progression of the Soviet Union. These is a function of music and images that advance all dialogue, no words or dialogue could obtain as well as continually sustain this degree of pace throughout the film.Furthermore, Vertov positions viewers to see this progression as positive, with continually upbeat music complemented by the joyful images of Soviet inhabitants. “It is far from simple to show the truth, yet the truth is simple.
” (Vertov, 1929) Vertov understood the complexities of presenting something to be true. At the time, not only Russia but all of Europe was ripe with propaganda and Vertov recognized that people were becoming to trust words, and what they were told less. He therefore tried to portray the camera as neutral and unbiased as possible.Vertov also gains trust for the camera, by also including sequences exploring the sadder realities of Soviet life. An example of this is the sequence of a couple going in to sign a wedding registration which is juxtaposed by a shot of a traffic signal changing.
The next shot is of a couple filling out a divorce registration. Another way he does this is by using shots of people who are unaware of the camera’s presence. An example of this is the man who breaks his leg and thus in no condition to act, is quickly aided by several workers.This is a perfect example of the power of images as it works on two levels; firstly to gain trust for the camera, as well as explore the true strength of the unified Soviet people. Man with a Movie Camera cleverly uses high-speed imagery underscored by fast, upbeat music to make suggestions about the progression of the Soviet Union. Melville’s Le Samourai introduces the central theme of isolation and solitude with differing functions of camera and image than Vertov.
It is first necessary to accept, that in order to develop an idea of isolation and solitude around a character that character can have little to no relationships with other characters. Therefore Melville understands that by necessity, this theme cannot be explored through the device of dialogue but rather through the complementary use of images and music. Francois de Roubaix’s theme works to create an uneasy and suspenseful feel. This suspenseful score is notably only ever played during sequences when Jeff is by himself, either in his apartment nursing wounds or during progressive shots.This works to both draw attention and create suspense around his isolation.
Similar to Man with a Movie Camera, progressive shots are used, but in this case to show the nature of Jeff solitude to be almost animal-like. He is always moving with one shot leading off from the previous one, and Melville’s Paris is completely indifferent to him, outlining this isolation. “There is no greater solitude than that of the Samourai, unless it is that of the tiger in the jungle…perhaps” (Melville, 1967) Although the film opens with a quote, I feel what solidifies this motif is the images and use of sound that follows it.It opens with a wide-shot of Jeff in his sterile apartment, with the dominant sound being that of cars outside.
This works to create the unmistakeable feeling of isolation. The city outside comes across as completely external, with the caged bird providing parallels to Jeff’s environment and situation (Johnson, 2010). For me the resonance of the quote was completely undermined by the images and sound effects which created the sense of Jeff’s solitude. Le Samourai uses suspenseful music as well as wider images influenced by colour to draw attention to Jeff’s solitude.
This is an idea that would be very difficult to introduce through dialogue. Although this theme is originally introduced by a quote, it is the progression of images and music that follows that truly solidifies the ideal in the viewers mind. Vertov loved film, especially in its anti-narrative form which is reflected strongly throughout Man with a Movie Camera. He undergoes a unique relationship of exploration in which he uses camera and image to celebrate camera and image under the broader spectrum of film. Man with a Movie Camera often feels like a matryoshka doll, with it being a documentary on the documenting of film.
Notably even the processes of editing and viewing the film appearing in the film itself. This is paramount in the usage of camera, as we are again positioned to trust and appreciate it. The film appears to show no bias, as he juxtaposes shots of shoe-shining and women at beauty salons, with shots of the editing process of film. “Strive to create a truly international, absolute language of cinema based on its total separation from the language of theatre and literature. ” (Vertov, 1929) Vertov perfectly demonstrates that the language of theatre can extend all lingual boundaries.Thus making it a prime example of the true power of image’s over words.
Finally images are used to explore the way the camera can go beyond literal descriptions and the human eye. Man with a Movie Camera is actually famous for inventive techniques such as dissolves, split screen, slow motion, freeze frame which certainly would bewilder the audience of 1929 into complete appreciation of the power of film (Mollison, 2003). With shots of the cameraman superimposed over Moscow, we are reminded that this documentary goes beyond where our eyes can see.This is further enhanced by the jubilant music which is a blend of both classical and modern elements, perfectly complementing the evolvement of film you see in the images. This celebration of film is something that in no way could be achieved through words or dialogue, with images of the film making process; viewers are amazed at the power and process of film.
Le Samourai presents a unique setting that greatly differs from viewer’s perceived reality. The idea of Paris as a jungle or underworld is something that is never discussed between characters of the film, but rather presented by manipulation of image with aid from the tense score.From the very beginning, Melville uses his camera to allow us to adjust to the characters world. The change in depth perception at the beginning, gives us the impression we are adjusting to a new world, which is perhaps slightly on the disturbed side.
We are then exposed to consistent shots of shadows, creating the feel of the city being hostile and threatening. Sound effects of cars constantly remind viewers of the city’s presence. This alerts viewers to the fact that the city is always there, but no matter how suspect Jeff’s actions may be the city is completely indifferent to him (Johnson, 2010).
Melville cleverly uses very similar shots for different characters. He shows shots of progression of the policeman that are almost identical to that of Jeff. This shows that the city is enriched with crime, as ever character is connected to the crime. Even the police acting like criminals as they bug Jeff’s apartment. Finally it should be noted, Le Samourai explores Antonioni’s quote through a literal depiction of society who have lost faith in words. In this sense, the people of Le Samourai’s Paris believe that words are over-rated, and thus Paris’ inhabitants only talk when they feel necessary.The clearest example of this is the films protagonist Jeff, who is a man of action, habit and code.
“Who are you? ” “It doesn’t matter,” “What do you want? ” “To kill you” (Melville, 1967) When faced with a death scene, the audience half-expect a long drawn out Hollywood death-sequence, but Jeff cuts this off, with immediate action. Paris appears drained of emotion, with the only considered being that of men’s action. In the police line-up a simple nod or shake or the head, can send someone to prison. The films suspenseful music is played at times of movement through the city, indicating that the city is both dangerous and hard to conquer.The motif of Paris as a dangerous place or underworld is highlighted by images of shadows, drained images, sound-effects of cars and suspenseful music. Although characters never speak of the jungle and underworld they inhabit, the idea is echoed in viewer’s minds, and thus must be attributed to Melville’s use of image and sound.
Man with a Movie Camera uses complementary devices of images and music, to explore a complementary and interrelated relationship between man and machine. Right from the beginning, Melville uses multiple exposures to mesh workers with machines.Whilst the city awakes, so do the machines with eyes flickering open in tandem with shuttering blinds (Tracey, 2009). Scene’s of work are underscored by fast-paced, upbeat music and this music does not discriminate for man or machine at work. This highlights both people and machines equal and unified role in Soviet progression. “I am Kino-eye, I am mechanical eye, I, a machine, show you the world as only I can see it. ” (Vertov, 1929) Again, Vertov’s own beliefs are strongly represented in Man with a Movie Camera as he likens himself to a machine.
Indeed, throughout Man with a Movie Camera, machines and people work in rhythm and in kinship (Tracey, 2009). This rhythm is evident throughout the entire film, as they simultaneously wake and kick into high gear. Similarly at the end of the day, the machines wind down and people head to the beach. Simultaneous to this is the way in which the music kicks into high gear during work hours, with the accompaniment of a full band.
As they wind down the music is more at ease with relaxed instrumental elements of a string quartet, flutes and pianos. Vertov uses constant juxtaposition of images, to mesh machine and man into one.Again this is a reflection of his personal view, and is further supported by the music that accompanies transition of each sequence, another view that would be difficult to explain in its entirety through literature. Le Samourai employs a rich tapestry of imagery as well a melancholy music to create a feel of death and more specifically the theme of freedom in death.
Unlike Vertov, he did not invent shots, but contrastingly calls upon common image techniques to create the feeling of death and its sanction. From the opening shot of Jeff appears to be laid out in death.He is lying stretched out and silent on his bed, in a darkened room. Melville positions us to feel as if Jeff’s is always moving towards his death. This is done, by use of progression shots in which the subject matter moves from destination to destination, within each frame. It is as if we are witness to a long, drawn-out, ritualistic process of ritual suicide (Petley, 2010). This has various connotations to the Samourai, who performed the process of seppuku or ritual suicide.
The idea of impending death is constant and is aided by Melville’s use of camera as he zooms in whilst simultaneously tracking back (Petley, 2010).Again it is another ideal which characters do not talk about, but is rather established through images and sequences. Another way this idea of death is achieved is through imagery of the caged bird juxtaposed with Jeff. These two are seen to have a constant relationship, and like the caged bird Jeff is only truly free when dead. The most resounding example of the freedom in death, and its exploration through the combination of music and images, is the final scene.
The final sequence has a soft but still cheerful song played throughout. This arguably celebrates the death that follows.When both Jeff and Valerie are under the impression that they are in there final moments, both their faces are calm and relaxed. The image of Jeff’s face before he dies resonates in the viewer’s mind, with the music’s cease highlighting that this is the end. Le Samourai employs a wide range of imagery, as well as songs which somewhat celebrate death. Melville’s progression shots underscored by tense music give the viewer the idea that Jeff’s was always moving towards his death, and this idea of death could in no way be developed to this extent with dialogue or words.
Both Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera and Melville’s Le Samourai have gone against traditional filmic structure of using dialogue as their central device. Instead they have used images and music in conjunction with another to explore respective themes and reflect ideologies of their directors. Through evaluation of these completely contrasting narrative forms, one can appreciate the differing ways images and music can be used over words. Man with a Movie Camera uses upbeat music underscoring progressive, fast paced and juxtaposing images.This consequently explores themes of the progression of the Soviet Union, celebration of film, as well as the relationship between man and machine. Le Samourai uses suspenseful music, colour and imagery to reveal themes of isolation and solitude, explore ideas of death and its sanction as well as depict Paris as a jungle or underworld.
Ultimately in evaluation of both films one can appreciate Antonioni’s quote, in the sense that seeing is believing.