Jump to content

 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
Sign in to follow this  
CoolnessItself

is proximity a characteristic of silent films?

Recommended Posts

Hi everyone,

I'm entirely unfamiliar with silent films, and have just watched my first (Metropolis) for a class I'm in. I'm writing a paper on the relation of sexuality in the film to a couple social movements of the time period. In case you're familiar with the film, I'll include the names of characters and scenes, etc. If not don't worry about it, my question is on silent films in general.

In the Tower of Babel, Freder gets extremely close in proximity to Josaphat when explaining to him his desire for Maria and the explosions in the depths. He gets extreeeeeeemely close to him, and I might be able to argue that his closeness to him might be a form of femininity, which would work well for the paper. However, I don't know if this kind of thing is regular in most silent films. Because of the lack of dialog, I'd assume you have to exaggerate your motions to convey emotions, but do two male characters typically get so close (Freder's arm was on Josaphat's chest, their faces aligned) in other films?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Metropolis has long been a favorite of mine, but I do not recall anyone being overly close. It may be the way the director wanted to convey the intimate information one character was telling the other. Just one form of expression, not necessarily sexual, just a close heartfelt secret. Different filmmakers have different ways of expressing subject matter. I have seen several silent films and have never noticed anyone being especially close for any reason other than love and secrets. However in regards to your paper it is best to present your honest viewpoint as to what you perceive in a film. If you truly believe it is a form of femininity than you shouldn't have a problem presenting your case. If you can try and see some more silent movies to compare as well as sound pictures too. I have always found that a movie should first be criticized for it's individual merits and then compared to other similar pictures. But then that's just the way I criticize.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The "chums" in The Birth of a Nation get very close as well. They lovingly horse around quite a bit and do their share of hugging. When the two fall together on the battlefield, it looks as though they could be lying in bed. The two obviously love eachother, but they aren't "in love" in a romantic way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's been a long time since I last saw The Birth of a Nation. Though widely criticized for it's subject matter it does seem to be an accurate representation of the feelings around the time of the Civil War. Is it true that the actor who portrays John Wilkes Booth in the picture is in real life the assassin's brother? Though I do not share it's point of view I do like this movie as it stays true to the characters unlike many recent Civil War movies where the Confederates start questioning if they are right or not. Though Ang Lee's Ride with the Devil does a much better job depicting the South than many other of the recent efforts. For another great silent movie about the Civil War check out Buster Keaton's The General which is one of his best if not the best Keaton film.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I?m not an expert on the subject, so this is just an opinion.

 

I?ve noticed the closeness scenes in many old early movies and in silent films, but I think they generally represent extreme emotion, sort of like if you?ve ever had the experience of getting right up in front of someone?s face to yell at him to make some kind of political point. Sort of like pointing a finger in someone?s face.

 

In some musical films of the ?50s, the boy and girl were so close and singing so loud, it seemed to me that they would be hurting each other?s ears.

 

There was an old saying about the Cuban missile crisis of 1962: ?The Russians and the Americans were up close and eyeball to eyeball with each other, and the Russians just blinked.? Meaning, the two countries got ?face to face? in a serious and emotional conflict, and the Russians finally did something that indicated they were backing down.

 

I always thought men getting close together or face to face in an emotion scene in an old movie just stressed the tenseness and emotion of it. Sort of like when Roman Polanski gets up close to Jack Nicholson?s face in ?Chinatown? and then sticks a knife up his nose. Also, in some old gangster movies, a tough guy would grab another guy by the top front of his shirt or by his tie and pull him up close, face to face, and give him a serious lecture and a warning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rules of personal space are usually considered a cultural trait more than an attribute of gender. One theory is that our comfort zone is decided by our environment; that those who live in densely populated areas have a smaller personal territory. So people living in India might have a smaller personal space than those who live in Mongolia.

 

Not to dissuade you from your theory of "feminization". Heck that's what paper's are all about. State a theory and then back it up.

 

As for the close-up two-shot, it lends a sense of intimacy -- both for the couple on the screen and for the audience's relationship to the actors. For example, if the actor's are in a shared whisper, the audience feels that we too are privvy to the information. It might also have simply made a visual composition that attracted Fritz Lang. Whether concious or not on Herr Lang's part, the sense that is given to the audience would be worthy of discussion in the paper. Remember, the audience's interpretation is based on their own personal history. Our interpretations say as much about us, as it does about the movie.

 

Good luck!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi CoolnessItself,

 

To help with your paper, although I realize this is a very late post for that need, I would study up on German Expressionism as it applies to film acting. I don't believe that Lang's point in Metropolis is to convey feminine or homosexual impulses at work. He would have been more obvious about it as there was already a "gay" cinema in Germany (I don't want to simplify or stereotype things) and examples of that can be seen in such (available on DVD) films as Sex In Chains, Different From the Others, Michael, and even certain scenes in Pandora's Box.

 

The critical point with Metropolis is that what you observe is just an acting convention - Expressionism - just as we now have an acting convention - Naturalism - in the movies.

 

Roy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

© 2020 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...