The Grand Illusion (1937)

This film demonstrates the evolution and continual mastery of film making techniques to convey a story, however it lacks a solid narrative structure. The story has little introduction, a web of complications and conclusions with various climaxes and finally ends.
New techniques include that of time passing. To demonstrate a time skip there would either be a dialogue of current events to do with the war or a shot of a newspaper reporting events. The new convention of establishing shots shows the use of a moving vehicle with a camera on it. Possibly a train or early dolly system. These shots were also used to demonstrate a passage of time via a montage of shots.
With the introduction of sound comes the problems of the sound editing process. A few scenes such as when all the prisoners played the flute and when Marechal was speaking to the cow were clear examples of inexperience in sound editing. The tone of the flutes did not change despite everybody moving behind a wall.
There was one terrible cut during the scene where Marechal and Elsa are about to kiss where the music is built up to an exceptionally loud and impacting point and then it’s a straight cut to the next day with different, softer music. It was just disturbing to the eyes and ears.
The film is generally realist, but incorporates expressionistic elements such as the scene where everybody stands still, in a rather twilight zone-ish style while the camera pans around the set. The aforementioned montage technique is another expressionistic element used. However the main goal was to convey a realistic story. The expressionistic techniques seem to be used for pacing and comic relief.


March 24, 2009. In class.

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