October 23, 2012

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It is not the decor that determines the gesture, it is often the gesture, in this extravaganza, that determines the decor. The presence of magic, even if it isn't continuous, distorts the relationship between man and his environment. A matter of serious consequence, because it is generally the relationship between the hero and his crushing milieu which, in Murnau, gives birth to tragedy. It is a tragic blow in Tabu and Sunrise when landscape and natural elements, storms or waves, act as destiny.
Eric Rohmer, 
The Organization of Space in Murnau's Faust. 
Paris: Union Générale d'Editions, 1977.






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"...I had always designed the sets first and drawn in the figures afterwards. But under the influence of Murnau I now began to sketch the people first; that is to say, I would begin by drawing what happened in the scene, and then the appropriate space seemed to grow out of it. Murnau used to encourage me in this method."  - Robert Herlth, designer of sets for The Last Laugh, Tartuffe, Faust, and The Four Devils



Innovations were the result of collective work and it is worth remembering: 

"...the German cinema of the golden age was always the result of team work to which everyone made a contribution." - Lotte Eisner, Murnau.







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Several illustrations and excerpts from the Appendix of Rohmer's The Organization of Space in Murnau's Faust:



537 - (Marguerite's) entry into the mother's room. We have a brief moment of rest, of equilibrium, but an unstable equilibrium, tense, a reciprocal voiding of present forces, drawing Vs in almost all directions, based on the contours of the character. The overall impression is that of contraction expressing an intense and painful meditation.


Marguerite's look toward the chair introduces a new line, perpendicular to the plane of the image.


538- The mother, (superimposed) opening her arms over those of the chair, finally materializes a pole of attraction.


539- The tension of 537 resolves in a paroxysmal expression, a mixture of both dilation (the mouth) and constriction (eyes). In fact, dilation is only implied: what prevails is the idea of an open mouth that closes more than a closed mouth that opens. The facial features are descendant and suggest convergence.


540 - The body of Marguerite - which has thus far faced the wall - refused by others, or simply a vacuum, finally finds a place not only to lean, but to fit. Contracted, tense, she suddenly becomes supple, almost limp, sobbing uncontrollably.  The Vs which, in 537, faced each other and expressed a contraction, now face her back and, forming an X, signify a liberating expansion. Because, in this position, the character's outbursts strike us more by their expansive, constructive aspect and the convex line of the back creates a tension no longer downwards, as before, but upwards.

This construction is instantly broken by the oblique upward movement of Marguerite along the back of the chair. The X disappears in favor of a new V: we find the original schema and the idea of both obstacle and vacuum (a vacuum which is an obstacle, since the unoccupied chair wishes to let itself be penetrated, but better to oppose its case as an impenetrable barrier). The schema is reversed, the chord which has become an entire pole of attraction / repulsion.




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constriction/dilation 
attraction/repulsion
descendant/ascendant













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"She looked really upset, her face was swollen. Her mouth was like that of a child about to cry"
















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1 comment:

Andy Rector said...

Frames from:

-Faust
(Murnau, 1926)

-La Fabrique du Conte d’été
(Françoise Etchegaray & Jean-André Fieschi, 1995/2006)

-Histoire(s) du cinéma
(Godard, 1998)

-Tabu
(Murnau, 1931)

-La maison aux images
(Grémillon, 1955) - with great thanks to K.G. Knappen

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