It’s the 14th of March evening when the Karlsruhe Silent Film Festival starts: the room is complete, one of Murnau’s movies is ready to be screened and the musicians of the Ensemble Déjà-Vu (piano, violin and double bass) are also ready to integrate the movie with their creative music. Some might say that the silent movie era was not cinema because of the lack of recorded sound; others would say that real cinema was only and precisely during those years, because it achieves to communicate universally with only one of components of the cinematographic medium. Here I won’t stand for any of these positions: I will simply talk about a masterpiece of cinema history, Murnau’s Der letzte Mann, starring a great Emil Jannings, produced in 1924 at the time of the Weimar Republic. Talking of purism, though, it must be said that here even intertitles are absent, in the belief that the image can be totally independent. The result is impressing.
The Karlsruhe Silent Film Festival (14-18 March 2018), arrived at its 16th edition, will start today with a focus on Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and the Cinema of the Twenties (to conclude the program of the previous edition). This Festival is one of the few devoted only to “Stummfilme” and includes a program of about 15 movies organized around different thematics.
One of the movies is a gem created in 1922 precisely by Murnau, Phantom. Generally speaking, it is not one of the most well-known masterpieces directed by the German director, such as Nosferatu (1922 as well), Der letzte Mann (1924) or Tartuffe (1925). It should definitely be included in the top list, though. Béla Balázs has defined this movie an “objectified lyric”, while Leonard Maltin gave it almost maximum rank saying that it is an authentic “poetic psychodrama”. Let’s see why.
In the previous text, I explored how the Arab Spring influenced the TV show creator Sam Esmail on setting up a story about the youth angst he found during that revolution, and how there would be a change of perspective from his side on those events. Mr. Robot is a TV show which suggested that anger may be a positive backbone towards societal equality, but at the same time wondered if that anger could had made things worse.
Critically, I would argue that part of the message is somewhat lost or blurred by Mr. Robot’s problems with pacing and mystery delivery, especially during season 2. A review from Matt Zoller (2016) provided a very interesting point of view: he argued that the TV show is at the same time brilliant in some moments while failing in its basic storytelling. Indeed, one of the perceived problems of Mr. Robot, especially striking in the second season, is how less tight it feels. For all the quite exciting TV show techniques, like setting up a 90’s sitcom excerpt with its own advertisements, the constant play between Elliot and the viewer, a season 2 premiere release before its official date under the pretense of a hacking attack, all the introduction segments for each episode becoming part of the narrative; there were also a lot of unresolved plots being established throughout the second season.
*This essay considers the story development up to the s3ep01*
Mr. Robot landed recently its third season, so I decided to discuss about this impressive TV show, similar to a critique. This first essay will focus more on the general aspects of the Mr. Robot, while the second one will tackle an argument surrounding the alternate dimension interpretation on some aspects from Mr. Robot.
Do you feel the bad guys reap what they sow? Usually, media conventions on plot development, or tropes, establish the baddie will receive its punishment, one way or another, after the good guys “win” on whatever conflict they were facing. Recent decades, however, have seen a shift on the consideration of a villain, rising its importance to the story as the same level of the protagonist (Miles, 2015). TV shows such as Los Soprano, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, or Dexter feature villains as main characters. Importantly, though, is how their arc develops during the course of the plot. Beforehand, there was a moralizing intention, meaning that stories featured villains doomed by their actions at the end (Marqués, 2016). However, modern media disregards this motivation in favour of a “realistic” portrayal of crime and evil (TV tropes). Nowadays, the villain is able to escape “karma” and gets no punishment from his actions. This shift permeates as well in other genres apart from TV dramas, and can also be seen in movies and literature.
Any faithful student of the cinematic form will admit that a film can be two-faced. It can wear the movie-screen as a mask, as it were. In a short video-lecture by the philosopher Slavoy Zizek, the latter provides an interesting analysis of The Sound of Music, pointing out such a type of filmic “double-speak.” When we follow the superficial thread of the film’s narrative, claims Zizek, we encounter a good-natured Austrian family living in fear of the rising threat of German fascism. However, a closer look suggests that the film’s true subject is a conservative Arian family fending off a gang of corrupted, cosmopolitan Jews. The Austrians are fair-haired and dressed in traditional garb, whilst the “fascists” are portrayed as black-haired, mustachioed banker types. The same ideology that is seemingly condemned by the film’s content is thus reaffirmed in its very form.