The film RASHOMON (1950), directed by Akira Kurosawa was heavily influenced by the short story ‘In a Grove’ by Ryunosuke Atkutagawa. Investigating themes consistent with human nature, the film explores the philosophical questions Atkutagawa poses. The storyline revolves around the differing perspectives of the characters, which differ so immensely, that it is difficult to decipher what is fact or fiction. The characters’ each tell elaborate stories of the same event, to suit their own fate and protect their honor, while selfishly abandoning the objective truth.
Author: Deana DiSalvio
The iconic Charlie Chaplin, as the Little Tramp, does it again in the 1936 film, MODERN TIMES, a commentary on the effects of the American people during the Great Depression. Although known for his comedy, Chaplin took on a serious role as a filmmaker and artist by interpreting the living and working situations of many individuals as they struggled through the 1930s. For some, the perfect comedic timing that leaves audiences in stiches may mask the richness within the film. In the opening shots where he compares people to cattle by juxtaposing shots of each being herded along indicates an unexpected depth beneath the silly hijinks. Here Chaplin adapts to the advancement of cinematic grammar, in what is perhaps a direct response to the filmic language utilized by the likes of Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, a ‘poet of the people,’ who also captured the struggle of the working class in his films.
Polish director Andrzej Wajda made the film MAN OF IRON in 1981, as a sequel to his 1977 film, MAN OF MARBLE. The protagonist Maciej, the son of Mateusz in the first film, continues the labor struggle at the Gdansk Shipyards in Poland where he works, just as his father did. Emotionally consuming and heartbreaking at times, the film delves deep into the relationships and human subtleties affected by political strife and oppressive conflict, and ultimately reflects how the greater fight for a democratic freedom requires sacrifice.
Shot in 1947, The Lady from Shanghai was adapted for the screen by Orson Welles, from the novel, If I Should Die Before I Wake, by author Sherwood King. Today, the film is remembered as the auteur’s classic, but upon its initial release, the film was unsuccessful at the box office. Experimental and innovative with camera techniques for the time, with combinations of fast, jumpy cuts and long tracking and crane shots, which enhanced the malice and mystery of the plot, Welles ultimately elevates film noir into another dimension. Every shot is particularly and intentionally framed as if it were a photograph. He even includes comedic moments by advantageously incorporating dark humor. Without a doubt a master of cinematic perspective, Welles could not have completed any of his works if it was not for his artistic peers, and incredibly talented fellow actors.
Haifaa Al-Mansour made her directorial debut in the 2012 film WADJDA, which chronicles the pursuit of a young Saudi girl who wishes to buy a bicycle. Al-Mansour brilliantly contrasts the modernity of the 21st century, with the traditional customs in an Islamic society. The film is full of contradictions; displaying an internal, private world of Muslim women, and the expectations in their external, public lives. Her protagonist, Wadjda, symbolizes youth, individuality, and progress. Her innocence harnesses a universal perspective of the first conscious achievements and disappointments of life.