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February 1996, Week 4


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 23 Feb 1996 09:02:51 -0600
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Matt McAllister asks:
"BUT, I'm getting bored with these scenes.  Can anyone suggest movie clips
that are rich in nonverbal complexity, and illustrate some concept about
nonverbal symbols?  I'd appreciate not just suggesting a scene, but also
pointing out what you think the scene does nonverbally.  Things like
posture, eye contact, body language, spacial relations, paralanguage (the
way words are said) would be great!
Thanks in advance for the suggestions!"
There are a host of possibilities, of course.  One thing that I *think* I've
noticed among "classic" directors is the way that that generation that began
working or training in the silent era carried so many of these non-verbal
elements into their films: von Sternberg, Lang, Hitchcock, Ford and others
are only the tips of the iceberg.
Here are a few ideas:
(which may be all too obvious)--
THE BLUE ANGEL--the division of space by doors in windows in Rath's classroom
and Lola's dressing room (not to mention the excruciating betrayal scene,
with the utter debasement of Rath, towards the end of the film)
SCARLET STREET--particularly the ending, as EG Robinson lives on while the
voices of his (direct and indirect) murder victims haunt him
There are *many* such scenes in Hitchcock--
        the discovery of the murdered woman in THE 39 STEPS
        the "recognition" scene in SABOTAGE, where Sylvia Sidney realizes that
                her husband is a killer while watching a Disney cartoon
                (and the killing in that scene)
        Virtually the whole of BLACKMAIL
        NOTORIOUS--especially the balcony/wine bottle scenes when Bergman gets
                her "job" commission and the "recognition" scene where Rains
                realizes that she's a spy
        the opening shots of I CONFESS
        the chase in Radio City Music Hall in SABOTEUR
        and on and on
the scene at the dinner table and the later scene of the birth of the baby in
        STAGECOACH and the ending of MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (see Nick Browne's
        THE RHETORIC OF FILM NARRATIVE for remarks on the former, along with
        other films)
This does not even begin to address "modernist" twists on such handlings of
space--Welles in TOUCH OF EVIL (where setting continually provides running
commentary on the characters), the alienated character arrangments of
Antonioni's films, the interaction of formal postures and codes of behavior
along with idiosyncratic camera placement and editing in Ozu's films.
And so on.
Or are you really looking for such non-verbal communication in more
"ordinary" films like the ones you mention?
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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