Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: Set Design Exposing Character Mindset

     This 1920 German Expressionist film follows the mystery behind a series of seemingly random deaths.  Dr. Caligari, a suspicious man, brings his somnambulist, Cesare, to a local fair.  Francis, the main character, after both the death of his friend and the kidnapping of his fiance, becomes suspicious of Dr. Caligari. Through the story it seems as though Dr. Caligari is an insane man, but by the end it is realized that Francis is the one who is insane.  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari does a great job of exposing the mindset of the protagonist, Francis, through the set design.


     Within the movie, the city buildings always arch inward. This is paralleled to Francis' feeling like the world is closing in on him.  Francis, as we find out, is the one who is insane and trapped in the asylum, hence the slanted buildings do a great job of furthering this sense of being continuously watched over.


      Consistently the walkways go off into odd directions.  This gives us a sense of Francis' misdirection; he feels like he is lost within his mind, chasing after something hidden.  In the story, Francis is chasing after his fiance, but in actuality, he is really just lost in his muddled mind chasing after nothing.  The walkways symbolize the plight of the insane person.


      Often times there are odd lines placed sporadically upon sets. This helps show how Francis feels like he is in a delusional state.  Throughout the film, various items and forms appear to be in wonky states.  For instance, there is one scene where the mayor is sitting in his office up on a chair.  The chair that he sits on happens to be about 4 feet too high.  This example, along with many others, additionally showcase this delusion state.  Lines create a sense of false repetition, hence a sense of being delusional.



     A lot of the sets give a feeling of being cramped.  This obviously gives the feeling of Francis being trapped.  Francis is both trapped in his mind and trapped in the asylum.  These cramped sets just show that there is no escaping for Francis!

As Tim Burton once said, “One person's craziness is another person's reality.”  Except, in this case, Francis' craziness is HIS reality!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Red Balloon


     The Red Balloon, a 1956 French film, takes us on the journey of a little boy and his magic balloon.  At the beginning of the film it becomes apparent just how independent this young boy is-- he travels the streets of Paris all on his own.  When he finds the balloon, there seems to be a switch in tone.  Before having the balloon, the boy is independent and in a sense, innocently lonely.  We never see him with other kids, yet he seems to not acknowledge this factor.  Once he has the balloon however, we both get a sense of the magnitude of the boy's seclusion from other kids and additionally how much the boy really does long for a friend.  We discover the former point through scenes of kids recklessly running out of the school building, trying to get the red balloon, and most of all: taunting and bullying the boy by trying to destroy the balloon.  We discover the latter point through the bonding of the boy to this animal-like balloon.  The balloon consistently follows the boy, and whenever the balloon disappears for even a moment, the boy involuntarily and quickly begins to search for it because the balloon is his only friend.  Overall, this film is able to make us, as the audience, feel emotionally connected to both the boy and the balloon.

     The boy is an unassuming, innocent, and independent young lad.  There is one shot, if I may add, that  the camera follows the boy running down a street of France trying to get to the school before the balloon.  The camera slowly get further away from the boy as he runs.  In this shot two main character aspects emerge: determination and insignificance.  Determination because we see that although running may be difficult for him, he wants to get to the balloon in time: so he will! Insignificance because when the camera slowly becomes further away from the boy, we get a sense of just how big France and the world he lives in is.  The factor of insignificance eludes to a later scene when the boy gets locked up by his mean teacher for simply bringing a balloon to school.  We can't help but giggle a bit when the balloon tries to get back at the teacher by taunting him and mysteriously following him.  All in all, the boy has many traits that make us just want to reach out to him and be his friend, too!

The boy running down the street in France.

     The balloon during the course of the movie becomes this lovable character of sincerity.  As mentioned earlier, the balloon follows around the boy (even when the boy is not holding the string!) We get this feeling of content when we see the requited friendship of the balloon and the boy.  When the balloon is in danger of being destroyed by the rough little school boys, there is this immediate sense of fear for both the balloon and for the boy (the boy because if he does lose his balloon... how will he react?)  When the balloon is finally destroyed, there is this moment of complete awe (followed by sadness) because it is almost unbelievable that this whole entire friendship has been destroyed in an instant.  The scene that follows this is the banding together of many balloons from all over France coming to find the boy and take him on a trip into the sky.  This scene is a tear-jerking moment of realization in an almost metaphorical way: each balloon kind of represents the longing for a friend.  There are tons and tons of balloons surrounding the boy, symbolizing the way he now feels (even though he has lose his main red balloon.)  He feels like he is surrounded by many friends because the red balloon instilled into him a sense of friendship, compassion, and loyalty.  All in all, the red balloon somehow finds away to make into our hearts.