In a sense, Kubrick had won his battle for authorship, because what most people remember about the film is not so much the heroism of Colonel Dax as the grim photographic grisaille of trench warfare and the execution of three innocent men in the name of patriotic honor. The camera dollies around a large room filled with artifacts of empire, engaging in a perversely Ophulsian choreography, while Kubrick, with the aid of cameraman George Krause, draws on his news photographer experience, making good use of natural light, deep-focus compositions, and sonic reverberations.
An Invention without a Future: Essays on Cinema
In contrast, the trench warfare involves a signature Kubrick effect: wide-angle, almost phallic tracking shots down a sinister corridor or demonic tunnel. Everything is in shades of gray, and the weary men along either side of the trench played by a German police unit have a sharply individuated, almost documentary authenticity.
Dax walks grimly forward amid the rushing, high-pitched screams of inbound shells and earsplitting explosions that scatter shrapnel. In the penultimate shot, the camera, assuming his point of view, moves through a cloud of smoke in which only a few ghostly figures are visible, as if it were journeying into an underworld where the men are already dead. The camera advances slowly and inexorably toward the three stakes where the men are tied, and the elaborately drawn-out ritual, staged on a parade ground filled with military and civilian observers, looks obscenely overblown.
After this horror, the audience is given a moment of relief when the German captive Susanne Christian, who became Mrs. Stanley Kubrick sings to a group of rowdy soldiers. Kubrick avoids sentimentality by virtue of naturalistic lighting, nicely selected close-ups of nonprofessional faces, and skillful modulation from a mood of carnival to a mood of grief. Immediately afterward, Colonel Dax is informed that his troops have been ordered back into action.
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The shattering film has offered only a brief nostalgic interlude before the barbaric system reasserts itself. In his final completed film, Ernst Lubitsch created one of his most effervescent heroines, a nonconformist with a lust for life and a yearning for freedom. By Siri Hustvedt. After a string of punkish subcultural shockers, John Waters set out to make something different with this hilariously foul take on Hollywood melodrama, his first studio picture.
An Invention Without a Future: Essays on Cinema by James Naremore
By Elena Gorfinkel. In this landmark melodrama, director Ritwik Ghatak channeled his grief over the destruction of his beloved homeland, Bengal, in the wake of the Partition of India. By Ira Bhaskar. Class tensions in postwar Japan unsettle the domestic life of a middle-aged couple in this sweetly satirical marriage comedy from Yasujiro Ozu.
By Junji Yoshida. Cluny Brown: The Joys of Plumbing In his final completed film, Ernst Lubitsch created one of his most effervescent heroines, a nonconformist with a lust for life and a yearning for freedom.
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