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flesh and the devil clarence brown technical devices and cinematic movements of 1920s in the construct

The narrative and visual story of Clarence Brown's Flesh and the Devil is constructed through technical device of the 1920s and cinematic movements of this period. Mise en scene within the sequence establishes the way that the characters are understood and heightens the drama of the film. Only a few significant technical advances occurred during the 1920s. A new approach to cinematography introduced a creation of soft and blurred images, rather than the hard-edged, sharp tones of previous films. This new approach to cinematography is used in Flesh and the Devil; examples of this soft blurry image are mainly used to describe female or the 'morally' good characters within the sequence. This technique constructs the way in which a character is perceived. Throughout the sequence the young woman dressed in white is described in this way, as are the characters of 'David' and the 'Wife of Uriah' after they have drunken from the wine goblet. This is noticeable as prior to this event 'David' was shown under a more contrasted light. This technique allows the audience to assume his redemption. The contrast of this focus also determines the characters morals and intentions. This technique establishes the construction of narrative and visual story without the reliance of dialogue within the sequence. One of the main German trends in cinematography in the 1920s was expressionism. It relied on drama and spectacle to convey the story, with distorted and exaggerated sets, costume and make up. The ideas and techniques used in Flesh and the Devil oppose the expressionist genre of film. As it portrays a realistic and naturalized narrative. Images appear to be realistic as this sequence is taken through a normal lens, to show the image without exaggerating or reducing the planes within the scene. This is used to portray an everyday scene so greater focus can be placed on character emotion through evocative acting and detail within the sequence. To construct narrative and emotive response, without the reliance on dialogue. Characters facial expression and gesture is emphasized to reveal the narrative, this is shown through subtle body language and gesture of the characters of 'David' and the 'Wife of Uriah,' which allude to the condemnation of a certain act which has taken place in the chain of events. Kammerspiel another German trend of the 1920s, was also a movement opposed to German Expressionism. It was another influence in the social realistic narrative portrayal and visual story of Flesh and the Devil. In many ways the influences and similarities of Kammerspiel are shown in this sequence. The sequence is set in a small intimate setting, although many people are shown only a few of the characters are focused on in detail, while the other people have no prominence. Within the sequence these characters are explored and an aspect of the crisis of their lives is detailed, through evocative acting and expression. Like Kammerspiel it is focused on character psychology rather than extreme expression of emotion and spectacle. Flesh and the Devil also eliminates notions of fantasy or legend, using mundane, banal settings and conveying a short period of time. This portrayal of contemporary reality within the sequence, allows for the visual story and narrative to take prominence. Although unlike most Kammerspiel films it is more complex and uses inter titles, to aid in detailing plot and character emotion. Although there are noticeable differences that differentiate this film from the Kammerspiel movement, again likeness can be seen through the symbolism. Symbolism is important in the conveyance of narrative events, as it is a visual clue to the action. Such motifs within the sequence are colour; white, the crucifix and the wedding band. These motifs show a parallel to the sequence as they all reference virtue but contradict what they represent. As within the sequence, it is set in a 'holy' place, but we are aware of sinful acts that have occurred. New Objectivity is another trend that has influenced the style and techniques of Flesh and the Devil. Like Kammerspiel it influenced the film in its move away from contorted expressionism and shift towards realism and social criticism. This is evident in the sequence through the use of evocative acting, gesture and facial expression. New Objectivity focused on the subject matter of the film, often depicting many social ills. This is portrayed within the sequence through the sinful act of 'David' and the 'Wife of Uriah' which is alluded to by the minister and by the characters gestures and reaction, rather than the use of dialogue. Within this trend ironies of the social situation take precedence over that of extreme emotion. Dramatic irony of the social situation within the sequence takes place through the contrast of the setting; a church and the situation that is alluded to; an act of sin. This irony also comes across through the innuendo of the sequence, as the act is suggested through reading of the bible. Through the ideas of New Objectivity, Kammerspiel and other techniques, Clarence Brown is able to construct the narrative and visual story without the use of dialogue. The mise en scene within Flesh and the Devil establishes the way the characters are construed, creating a sense of drama and innuendo within the sequence. The use of props within the mise en scene effects a characters portrayal and heightens the dramatic and visual aspects of the sequence. The hand written note is the first prop of significance. The harsh whiteness of the paper contrasts the general bleakness of the setting, while the content conflict with the action of the film and the undertones of the minister's impromptu sermon. The extreme close up of the minister's hand destroying the note delivers a sense of exacerbated tension within the mise en scene. Many of the props within the mise en scene construct power relations between characters. The minister's glasses illustrate this as he looks upon the mass with scrutiny. He puts on the glasses to read the note, but removes them when the people involved in the sinful act arrive As if he only wants to see the purity in the world and refuses to look upon sin. Within the mise en scene other important props creating power relations are the bible and the glass of water. Both representing virtue and purity, implying this of the minister. Through drinking the water he purifies himself and through his teachings from the bible he instills this sense of purity in others. Although the prominence of his wedding band implies that he too is human, not 'God' and that he has needs and desires, perhaps making him not so virtuous. The character metaphorically labeled 'Uriah's Wife' is also empowered through the use of prop within the mise en scene, as it influences the way she is perceived. Her application of lipstick gives her a seductive and femme fatale air. It gives her power, power over the male characters, and almost a power over 'god' as she does not fear this moral ideal. She can hide behind the lipstick as it covers her sins. The minister again is in a position of power as he places the bread the mouths of the recipients, as with the wine. All the characters are subservient to the Ministers status. Although there is a shit in power when the ' Wife of Uriah' submits. She grasps the goblet with both hands as to take full control, a mortal control. The figure of the Virgin Mary or Jesus Christ is also noted near the end of the sequence within the mise en scene. Only the head of the statue is shown, and it is always seen in darkness and out of focus. Although it is situated above the people and above the minister. Costume within the mise en scene creates a sense of contrast and construes the nature and intentions of a character. Through out the sequence prominent contrasts of black and white are obvious. The predominant colour is black; this is recognized in the characters involved in the sinful act.
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