The previous week we had watched Metropolis (1927) and this past Thursday we watched segments of silent films and shorts. These early films show the way that technology move with how often we utilize that technology. The growth of films moved at a spectacular speed that we go from film shorts by Thomas Edison and the Lumiere Brothers in the late 1800’s, to films like Georges Méliès A Trip to the Moon (1902) and Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery (1903). These films grew in production value and scale in the matter of less than a quarter century. The scope and shots of the films in their use of of cinematography were still in their infancy stages, but utilized some panning, fade ins and outs, and long and medium shots.
In the 1920’s there was a significant growth in the way films were produced. We had feature length films coming from different countries, including our own like Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925). In France, we had Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc 1928). Lastly, in Russia, we have Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera (Человек с киноаппаратом 1929). These films utilize newer techniques like zoom, glance object glance, and establishing shots. The production of multiple stages in other states and countries are more present along with more advanced editing and composition techniques. In some instances you feel as though you are a part of the film, especially when it zooms in on a character and urges you to take note to what’s going on.
In the Russian film, Man with a Movie Camera, we are taken on a ride through the film as a documentary showing an organic symbiosis in a day in the life of Moscow. It shows the juxtaposition in many of life’s triumphs and tragedies, poor and wealthy, and the reliance and use of technology.
The most significant growth I had seen in any of these shorts or films has to be The Passion of Joan of Arc. The fact that it was produced in 1928 and yet the way they were able to shoot the film looks in some ways that it could have been made today. The terrible truth is that a lot of films of our era, utilize filming techniques less and less because our dependence of technology fixing any of our shortcomings. In turn, it makes many filmakers lazy in the way a film s shot and edited. Some films still come out each year that challenge us as viewers and feed us with amazing shots, sound, and editing that lets us know that there are still many reasons to make films today.