The and was produced by a German
The Last Laugh of A Old Man F. W. Murnau is considered one of the most innovative directors of the silent era. During his short career before his death in a road accident, he highly introduced the subjective point of view camera through his developed directional and technique skills in early period.
Murnau’s technical mastery of describing his characters makes his films exciting to see. When people think Murnau, the most two famous films that ultimately come up in their minds are: Nosferatu (1921) and Sunrise (1927).But in between of those films, he made a well known masterpiece called “Der Letzte Mann” or “The Last Man” (Which was renamed “The Last Laugh” in America), because the name “The Last Man” was already taken. “Der Letzete Mann” or “The Last Laugh” was written by Carl Mayer and was produced by a German film, Kammerspielfilm. The film is a narrative story with the central character is an old porter and his differential evolved performing in complex situations.
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Through the film, Murnau created phantasmagoric visions that defined and emphasized his character: he was who he was because of what surround him.The very first scene of the film was begun with the portrayed descending of the camera toward the hotel lobby with the association of a harmony combinational tons of violin, piano, and flute. The rotational door opened as an introduction of the film. An image of an old elegant porter appeared inside a raincoat in front of a luxury hotel: Atlantic.
He was busy working in a bad weather, but he looked confident and full of himself as he’s whistling for cabs and saluting arriving customers in the torrential raining night. However, the burden of aging doesn’t seem to pardon anyone.As the time can’t be stopped, he was getting older as well as losing his strength. Because of being fond of his job, he didn’t accept a fact of being decrepitude. He put himself into a risking sogginess to carry the customers’ heavy luggage.
It’s his responsibility as a porter of a fancy hotel. After it stopped raining, he took off his raincoat and disclosed his doorman uniform. In that short moment, the camera cinematographed his standing posture directly from a low angle to a higher position that created an illusion affecting watchers’ consciousness about his image. His body became taller and wider.
His face surrounded by a beard and whiskers that frame its cherubic pomp. His image became more dazzle and splendor with the associational affection of the hotel light behind his back. At that moment, he created an image of a very respectful old man with a power to control the situation even a bad one on the street in front of the hotel. In the territory, he acted like a king expressing through his solemn motion that attracted two young ladies – one clinging to each arm. His doorman coat looked just like a royal robe: a glittering gem of thread and button. The coat was so special and made him looked different to people around.
The coat was used to express his prestige and rank that distinguished and earn other’s admiration. However, as the camera jumped out and took a shot of his whole body with the same angle of eye level, his body failed him. His overweight body exposed a ridiculous object inside a luxurious coat. His movements looked unnatural and strained with his militarily walking and greeting gestures. His body’s aspect gave a doubtful expression about his real social status. His body belonged to low class.
Therefore, his solemn motion and his luxurious coat were a channel for him to except his real status and try to act as a high class.Although only a humble doorman, he nevertheless enjoyed a position of prestige and respect, much of it associated with the dientele he works with at an important hotel, but it also had a lot to do with the very smart uniform he wore as the chief porter. He didn’t take his position lightly, and perhaps even considers himself more important than he really was. He might be playing an important role as a king of his street universe around the hotel; but at the moment he was walking into the hotel, he was stepping into a different world that opulent people inside deluxe suits were enjoying their luxury lives.In that world, people’s statuses were expressing through those perfect and deluxe suits as represented their powers that could bring profit to every around them – an act of expressing the power of class hegemony.
On the way going back home, the old man’s walking gesture didn’t change as a military officer. With the hotel uniform which set him apart from his neighbors, he walked in full regalia. He earned the respect salutes and bow down of his neighbors as he walked past the residents of his tenement. In his tenement, people also wore suits.However, it had different value of meaning compared to his coat. Their suits looked dirty and unwashed for a long time.
With the black and white scene, the suits seemed really old and the color was stained. Those suits seemed to wear in everyday as regular daily clothes than special meaningful clothes that were wore in special occasion. Therefore, the suit couldn’t express its true meaning. Moreover, those people’s gestures also took a part of reducing the suits’ value. They expressed themselves as crude, nosy, and gossip neighbors.On the following day, a fact of his exhaustive from difficulty carrying the heavy luggage had not gone noticed.
The Atlantic manager had seen him sit down for a rest and reviving drink after struggling with a large and heavy trunk. These motivations cased and reminded others that he’s an old man now. His position was one of most important ones of the hotel. It’s represented the face of the manager, the face of the hotel. Therefore, the manager decided to give that pot to a suitable man instead replying to an old man. As soon as the old man approached to his territory, the camera shake as something dramatic would happen.A young porter was standing in front of the hotel as his regular working pot, wearing a same uniform as his, and doing a job saluting people.
However, it was not the biggest shock to him. Later on, a letter of demotion was sent out and informed that he had lost his position because of his age. In that scene, the camera swirled and shacked like the earth falling apart. The scene was recorded as an incredibly emotional story in the silent era.
The scene was considered one of the best scenes of the film that made the film success.The scene expressed the painful collapsing posture of the old man when he knew he was demoted to a lavatory attendant. Immediately, his body contorts, his shoulders hunch forward submissively, his face twitches. Janning’s acting became expressionistic as he depicted the doorman’s trauma. With practically a complete absence of explanatory intertitles, his circumstances were almost completely visible in his bearing through his body expression. With his daughter about to be married, it’s quite a blow for the old man. But the most humiliating aspect of his demotion that he couldn’t come to terms with was the loss of his uniform.
Without it, he was just an old man, an ordinary person, and no different from everyone else. As a result, rather than the issue of position and income, he concerned about his standing position with his family and the local community. His determination to attend his daughter’s wedding the following day prompted him to steal his lost uniform to wear at the celebration rather than admit his shame, leading to an evening of revelry that temporarily wipes his memory of his misfortune. As the two wedding played the triumph, his consciousness swirled into the sound of music leading him into a dream.In the world of dream, he became an opposite person.
He was still an old man wearing his luxurious hotel uniform, but something had changed inside his body. He looked more confident than ever. He became a strong man. He could lift and throw a heavy luggage in one hand. His age didn’t bother him anymore. As he was performing his showing off strength, he earned the applauding from his hotel customers. In other words, he felt like he was accepted from upper class.
His dream was as his desire: he wanted to become a member of upper class. His desire was same as well as many people in that age.But it was just a sweet dream that would hurt him after woke up. The fact of being demotion already announced in the hotel. He didn’t want his image to be dim in his neighbors’ consciousness. He accepted the density of demotion in unwillingness but not accepting as his consequent.
He wanted to keep it in secret away from his tenement universe. He had to fool his neighbors and lure his density in order to keep his imaginational joy as an admired porter. Secret is an abstracted noun that designed to elude observation or detection. Unfortunately, secret is not relative to “invisible” thing or “nothing” while time is its enemy.Therefore, secret can be discovered by others sooner or later. As the result, the old man couldn’t keep his dramatic secret discovered from his neighbors, and was first discovered by his closest family. As soon his secret spreading all over his tenement, he became of the central topic of tenement gossiping.
The price of hiding it was so expensive. He was abandoned from people. He was rejected from his tenement, from his living world. Even his daughter didn’t want to be around with him. He wanted to escape to somewhere. Somewhere that he could be hided from those cruel gossips.He had nowhere to go excepting his new world – the hotel washroom universe.
The washroom was located inside the hotel. Although it was a part of the Atlantic Hotel, it was located in a lower level to the hotel lobby. The washroom was connected to the hotel lobby by a straight run stair. Standing from the top of the stair and looking down to the end of it, darkness covered a whole space leading to an infinite end.
The straight run stair was liked a bridge that was used connecting two very different worlds: a heaven world with full color of light and an unknown world with color of dark.People up there were laughing as they enjoyed their meaningful lives while in other world an old man in an old second-hand shirt was sitting on a rocky chair against his back to the wall. The t-shirt originally was white color; but the color stained too much reveal a milk-coffee color.
The color of his new uniform was dark as well as his life. He couldn’t see the sun light in this basement level. Now his new life had begun as a washroom attendant. His job was simple that didn’t require a lot of strength: taking care people who came to his world.He could earn some more tips from some kindness customers.
However, he wasn’t happy as before. His job was simpler, but no one knew who he was, excepting his position. No one would remember a washroom old man. His life was separated to others as his demotion to lower position as sad as his social status. He became belonging to other world which he was only a resident in. However, God won’t abandon his son even no one cared. God brought a watchman to his lonely life to cure his heart, to listen his pain, to share his misfortune, and to be friend with him.
God not even saved the old man life, but also brought fortune to him. God gave him a chance to become a millionaire. As he became a millionaire, he enjoyed his new life as a man in upper class. He wore an expensive suit, ate plenty delicious food in a luxury hotel. The waiters’ hotel served him as solicitous and thoughtful as the most important customer while other people were laughing and talking about his fortune.
The scene was other gossiped scene. However, this scene was totally opposite to the scene in the tenement. Therefore, it had a different effect depending on different circumstance.But as the last scene, Murnau let the hotel manager appear again. The hotel manager’s expression was unendurable as the moment he saw the old man and the night watchman in the hotel dining room. The scene was an implied explanation of class hegemony.
Although the old man became millionaire and he and his friend were wearing high class clothes, the fact of being seen or recognized by the hotel manager was unchangeable. In the manager viewing, their real status couldn’t deform or change their identities as an old porter and an old watchman by that clothes that they could buy and wear. The Last Laugh” was a successful film; and it’s truly silent. Murnau is successful expressing his message to the audient without telling a word (except for one sardonic comment).
He tells his story through shots, angles, moves, facial expressions and easily read visual cues. The film is one of the great successful achievements in the silent era. And the name of film was named as the last laugh of the old man in the last scene. It was a joyable and happy laugh. . he n the silent era.
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