Lisbon Story

Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2011

Lisbon Story

man with the movie camera

Discussion Questions:

Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. The answer length will vary for grad and undergrad. The questions are all graded individually so extra effort in preparing your answer is rewarded.

Email me your responses in Word .doc format to: I will be posting these each week after the class. You should be prepared to deliver your answer in class -- but paraphrase, do not read it. Please only send to my sympatico address as I use this for the film course so that I run less of a risk of misplacing your answers.

Feel free to include internet reference links in your answers.

The answers are due in my Inbox at the end of the weekend following the in class discussion. (I generally spend the Monday before the film class assembling the web information for the next class and posting responses from the previous week).


updated Thursday, December 8, 2011 1:26 PM

  1. Jennifer Beggs

Q: Philip is creating the sounds for the Lisbon film without ever speaking to Fritz. His sound collection is based on his interpretation of the film. Likewise one would suppose is the case of the musical group and their creation of the musical score. How do you feel this subdivision of the creation of the film impacts the potential of its overall effect? At the end of the film, do you think they are changing their strategy? Why or why not?

A: Philip is creating sounds for the Lisbon film without ever speaking to Fritz. Philip uses his own interpretation for the movie to record sounds and noises to fit the film. There can be some disadvantages to doing so which I feel is a little bit of a “hit or miss” risk. Philip uses his interpretation of the film to choose sounds which ultimately affects the overall mood and effect the movie has on viewers. There is a risk that his interpretation might be different than Fritz’s and therefore he may put emphasis on different sounds and parts of the film than Fritz has originally intended. For example if Fritz is trying to create a tense scene with lots of suspense he might not want the sound of a car zooming by; he might prefer it to be rumbling, adding to the suspenseful atmosphere of the scene.

There is another risk in Philip recording sounds as he believes is necessary without Fritz’s opinion. The sounds may be too generic for the movie. Philip is going out and recording any sounds he hears in his regular life. If he has a sound for people talking, or sounds of people eating, it may be the right type of sound but may not be specifically what Fritz’s intended to hear during that part of the movie. For example if the sound Philip records is of people eating, it may be the wrong type of eating; different cultures and different types of food, such as chop sticks and finger food, sound different and the type of food (or action/activity) could make a difference if it is important to the movie.

When the music is written to be added to the film without the direction of Fritz, it can either be suitable and helpful to the flow of the movie – or it can take away from the director’s vision of the film. The music is such a big influence on the movie and can change the entire effect of the movie. Using the same footage, different types of music can portray completely different moods and suggest different messages to the viewers.

Pre-recording sounds and then adding it to the film may have a problem of the sounds sounding “generic.” If one scene has the sound of a car honking and another scene has the same sound repeated, you run the risk of the sounds appearing to have been chosen from a “menu” and the believability of the sounds and scene are decreased. The director is needed in order to ensure the sounds, music, footage and message of the film are in harmony and tie together well.


2. Jaliya Fonseka

Q: Lisbon Story is a film about film making. Comment on the contrast that is provided to "the creation of the black and white movie withpurposeful sound effects" by "the static video filming done by the children". What is Wenders trying to say by including this side story?

A: The creation of the black and white movie, as seen throughout the film, is very deliberate and highly orchestrated. Whereas, the video filming done by the children is random and does not present much thought process.

In many instances of the film the local children, obsessed with their video camera, capture everything that they see and do. Although Phillip did not understand why they did this and often times ridicules them for it, these actions seem to have been encouraged by Friedrich. It is near the end of the film that we understand Friedrich's struggle to finish his film lies in his belief of being disconnected with the process of filming naturally and capturing the pure essence of the environment in which he films. The children, however, who do not get caught up in the process of filming itself are able to capture what is real and natural to them, with ease. This may be Wenders's way of saying that - sometimes when we think too much about our very movements and actions, we move further away from them. The harder we try to capture something that is natural, the more un-natural it becomes. Maybe we sometimes simply need to be and act as the children do.

As Phillip wanders about Lisbon in search of the missing sounds for the film, he also discovers much about the city itself. In fact, it is during his search for sounds that he unintentionally ran in to the man that he had been looking for throughout the entire film -Friedrich the director. This may be Wenders's way of saying, just as Friedrich had called upon Phillip's help to complete his film, the current state of film making is in need of an equivalent "Phillip" - someone to remind us of the difficulty and integrity of film making. Thus, coupled with the comparison of the children aimlessly filming through their modern all-in-one cameras, Wenders alludes to the state of film which now rests upon a highly technology and computer effect driven means. This argument of "the old fashion way" of doing things being dismissed, is captured in the scene where Phillip uses his "sound making" tools to play a guessing game with the children. In this scene, the items that Phillip had lugged all the way from Germany for the very purpose of creating sounds for the film has become a children's game.  


3. Miles Gertler

Q: In Lisbon Story, Friedrich puts the camera on his back as a way of removing the responsibility of the filming from himself. Do you feel that this sort of camera position manipulates the way in which we see the action of the city?

A: In Lisbon Story, Wim Wenders creates a character that struggles with his role as a filmmaker. This character, Friedrich, keeps the camera on his back to ensure that what he films is not contrived or influenced by what he wants to see. He explains that he essentially no longer trusts the subjective view of the filmmaker. To him, the mere act of seeing what he films, either during or after the recording of footage, is an inherent flaw in the process of capturing life on film.

In the most direct sense, Friedrich’s intention is that the film never be seen, so that in fact the action of the city exists only as an archive. Should the film be granted an audience, one might experience something similar to the oblique angles and seemingly focus-less frames that shake and vibrate in Vertov’s man with the movie camera. In as far as this accurately captures the life of the city, one could argue that it sheds more light on certain qualities over others: the randomness of chance encounter, discontinuity of urban form, and perhaps on the often frenetic pace of activity. Of course cities have other, opposing qualities, to varying extents, but Friedrich’s, and Vertov’s, methods of filming could be similar in terms of the qualities that they evoke.

Despite this speculation and the potential strength of Friedrich’s direction-less filming, or at the very least its conceptual value, we see very little of Friedrich’s footage, which is stored away mostly in his “film museum.” This is unimportant, however, since the film that Friedrich and Winter return to making is inevitably random in many ways as we see in the brief montage at the end; shots are filmed chaotically and rely on varying elements such as schedules of trams, natural lighting, and the audio track that Winter records from the urban soundscape.

One can imagine that if Wenders’ version of Lisbon is as languid as the music of Madredeus, the folk musicians he features, Friedrich’s footage would be its antithesis in the mood and qualities it evokes.


4. Suzan Ibrahim

Q: In the opening travel sequence the sound of the radio is carefully edited with the changing scenery. Discuss the relationship between the two and the effectiveness of some of the editing choices in assembling this sequence.

A: The main character, Winter, starts off with a trip from northern Europe down to Portugal by car. The camera is however not filming him driving but filming the trip itself from his perspective looking over the road. As Winter is driving it becomes obvious how easy it must be to cross all the country borders within Europe as well as how fast the landscapes, weather and cultures changes. As the specific landscape changes from country to country, along with the weather, so does the music and the language being played. With the use of the sound from the radio, the viewer gets a sense of the context and the country that Winter is passing by through the language. Its editing of the radio reflects upon how important music and sound is to Winter, where we later understand that he works as a sound man for movies. Along with the music he is listening to it he hears the music band Madredeus and the girl singing in it but it switches quickly over to a typical french piece as he sees the Eiffel Tower towering over him and then retunes as he is about to cross the border of Portugal.

Most of the clips within this sequence also takes place at the borders between the countries where the music has a sudden change in it. Other times Winter crosses an accident, and by the frantic sound from the radio it sounds like a newscast describing this accident. The climate changes drastically between northern Europe and southern, this is evident in the changing landscape and the sun which is accompanied by an appropriate sound clip for each. The combination of of the change of languages, climates, borders or cities, really emphasizes the landscapes he is passing by and engages the viewer in the travel as though they were passengers along with him in the trip.




5. David McMurchy

Q: Lisbon Story is a colour film about the making of a monochromatic film. How does Wenders seem to feel about the use of the two methods of film presentation based upon a reading of this film?

A: To Winter’s eye, the act of catching sounds and putting them into film is an art. Unlike the modern colour video cameras, such as the one used by the children to record their everyday activities, the monochromatic film is symbolic of a process that requires great care to accomplish.  This process of three parts - the recording of images, sounds and their combination - is one of which Wenders plays a crucial role.  Without his recordings, the video is monochrome not just in colour but in realism.  Without his recordings the audience is left bereft of one of the our most important senses.  Without him, the film that Fritz has been recording and left for him to discover has little meaning beyond being a novelty.  By adding sounds to the films, he is validated as an artist and creator of something much more life-like.  Comparing the monochrome film and its associated artistry to the colour recordings, so easy that even children can assemble them, one can sympathise with Winter’s distaste for a product that acts to make his life’s passion unnecessary and cheapens the act of telling a story.  That’s not to say that Wender disagrees with colour recordings completely, just that they are beneath the level of care, detail and fullness as a medium that he uses for his own work and that he expects from the work of his friend Fritz.


6. Benny Or

Q: Man with the Movie Camera and Lisbon Story purposefully let us see the movie camera and filming. How does the presence of the camera as part of the action of the film alter our perception of the city that is being filmed?

A: Man with the Movie Camera takes a more documentary approach at filming. Because the
viewers are able to see the movie camera, we perceive the city from an exterior perspective. The
presence of the camera allows the audience to understand the context of which the film takes place.
With that in mind, the "man with the movie camera" becomes the main actor in the film and the film
becomes an information record of how he perceives the city. Instead of just accepting the narrated
perspective of the director's ideal, we are able to make our own judgment on the city that he is
trying to depict. The movie brings into dialogue the presence of the becoming of the modern
industrial era of Soviet Russia. By revealing the act of filming within the film, Vertov presents the
viewers with a genuine depiction of the city.

In Lisbon story, the audience is given the opportunity to perceive the action through the
camera lens of the children. By doing so, we assume the position of the children's perspective and
we are able to perceive the city through the character's eyes. For example when Philip is getting a
shave, we see the footage on the camera. Through that technique, the viewer becomes an actor
within the film. We begin to see the narrative from the children's perspective. The camera becomes
a tool to manipulate the spectator's understanding of who they are and what they are watching.
Thus in Lisbon story, the presence of the camera as part of the action allows the viewers to take a
more intimate perspective of the city


7. William Pentesco

Q: In Lisbon Story we are shown two methods of capturing sound for a film. One as manipulated effects and the other the purposeful collection of sounds from the city. How do you think this part of the narrative of the film story changes our perception of the city that is being portrayed?

A: When Winter is going around collection sounds the director, Wenders, orchestrated the scene in a way where the sound is disconnected from its source. The audience is put in a separate room trying to decipher the sound from the film. Similar to how Winter has the kids sit in another room and then creates sounds in the other room having them guess what the sound represents. This action of waiting for the source of the sound to be revealed allows the sound to become an effect on its own. Without visual stimulation the sound seems sharper and articulates every detail of the city. When the camera pans across after the microphone does, you can match the source of the sound with the sound itself.
Winter follows the mic of his recording device to sound, as a dog follows his nose to a scent. This is how we discover the city, by following the sounds that Winter discovers. We become to see the city as a series of spaces made through sound, rather then space made through architecture. A different approach that’s uniqueness emphasizes the effect in this film.


8. Emmanuelle Sainté

Q: Do you think "Lisbon Story" is an appropriate title for the film? Either from your idea of the film before seeing it, or after viewing the film. Explain your position.

A: In my opinion, “Lisbon Story” is an appropriate title. In this film, the city of Lisbon acts as a setting, but it is more than a simple backdrop for the action. It is at once an instigator and a propelling force for the story.

The title suggests a film about the city itself, a Vertov-like overview of the capital city of Portugal, showing its inhabitants, its sights and primary elements, and the different things that happen around the city in a given day. Before watching Lisbon Story, I thought that the film would be set up in this way. In fact, this only appears as one part of entire work, as a film within the film.

What makes the title appropriate then, is the way the city of Lisbon threads itself through the entire narrative of the film. It starts out as a destination, as the protagonist receives a summons from his friend and must make his way to Lisbon, encountering obstacles along the way, and having experiences that occur as a result of his displacement. It then becomes a subject, and through the documentary of the city that Friedrich is filming we become acquainted first with the sights of Lisbon. We then become familiar with its sounds and its people when Philip ventures out to record the streetscape. Thirdly, it becomes a setting, the place where the protagonist, Philip, meets new people, forms new relationships, and falls in love.

The film is then a story, in which the city of Lisbon plays a recurring role. It becomes one of the major characters, and as a major character, it is then appropriate for the story to take its name.


9. Tristan van Leur

Q: Both MWMC and Lisbon Story are about the making of documentaries. Man with a Movie Camera takes a spectator's position when viewing the city. Lisbon Story gets more personal. How does this difference in the approach of filming affect the viewer's interpretation of the respective cities?

A: Lisbon Story’s intimate approach to documenting the city creates a biased view of the city.  It follows on German tourist’s point of view, which is the eye the viewer receives for the duration of the film.  This approach leaves the viewer with the feeling of being enamored by Lisbon.

Man With A Movie Camera takes a very different approach, where the city almost appears to only be comprised of a million components all happening at once.  The approach of many quick edits of seemingly random parts describes the city as this big place of industry and work.  The city itself becomes a machine.  The city becomes painted as a place for productivity, transport, and technology.  This approach can leave the viewer feeling the frantic pace of the city, and it certainly disembodies the human element from the city.

Lisbon Story’s single person point of view means that the viewer feels towards Lisbon, what Philip feels towards Lisbon.  Philip is often looking at Lisbon as a thing of beauty, especially as he discovers new pieces and parts.   Since you inherit Philip’s viewport, Lisbon becomes a beautiful place, but a quaint place.  It is a place for someone to walk around and meet new people, a place of discovery.  It is a city on that is peaceful and an intimate place.

Man With A Movie Camera in total contrast leave the viewer believing the city is not a place for conversation, and not a quaint lovely city.  The City can only be interpreted as a place of movement and chaotic energy.  The viewer never gets to discover the conversation a family has at dinner, or between people at a bus stop.  The city loses its human element.

The two films greatly contrast in perspectives, and the result is a massive variant in the interpretation of the city for the viewer.  Lisbon becomes a beautiful city filled with discovery and interesting people.  The City in Man With A Movie Camera is a place of production and movement.  It is chaotic, and does not feel like a place to live, and you gain no understanding as to what the culture of the city is at a personal scale, as the movie makes it appear not to be a social climate.  Interestingly, Lisbon story also falls short in portraying what it really feels like to live in Lisbon, because the perspective that is followed is, essentially, that of a tourist.  You don’t understand what it is like to work a regular day, raise a family, and live your entire life there, so Lisbon also does not become a working city.


10. Benjamin Van Nostrand

Q: Lisbon Story has many separate films and film effects in it. The opening travel sequence. The regular film in Lisbon of Philip's stay and encounters. The B/W film that Fritz left for Philip to edit. The kids' videotapes. How do these rather disparate elements support the commentary that Wenders is making on film making?

A: The answer to this question depends entirely on what one determines as Wenders' commentary on filmmaking. In this case I believe Wenders' views are mainly communicated through the plot, with echoes of those views driving the visual style and form.

Fritz's dilemma (and seeming eventual loss of sanity) is in his daily confrontations with the innumerable subjectivities of his film - like a sort of cinematic Schrodinger's cat he cannot observe anything without influencing it into an unnatural state. Once he factors in the additional effects of showing a film to an audience, with all the stylistic and formalistic choices that entails, any hope of pure objectivity is completely lost.

But where Fritz reacts by producing a film of the city behind him, intended never to be shown, Wenders embraces the many possible faces of the film head-on. Instead of trying to narrow in on one visual style, or one point of view, Wenders celebrates the chaotic variety that only the filmmaker's medium can allow.

That, I think, is the message at the end of the film - that the inherent subjectivity of film as a medium and an art is something to be embraced and used to one's advantage instead of suppressed.

In simplest terms, the B&W film and the kids' videotapes and the main narrative and the more artistic montage at the beginning of the film are all displaying the same content: the city of Lisbon and some of its inhabitants. In reality though there are many different threads of stories unraveling, and many different looks and feels that layer meaning and tone far beyond the superficial content. The brilliance of filmmaking is its ability to pick and choose these views at will, on the fly, and mix them or contrast them or juxtapose them through time.

Interestingly, the main character Philip's view of the world is much more two-dimensional; when out recording the soundscape he experiences one fairly precise channel of reality, relatively uninfluenced by his perceptions and equipment/medium. Philip becomes a sort of anchoring force, a reassuringly reliable constant in the sea of variables that is the film's plot and visual style.

  11. Richard D'Allesandro

Q: Comment on the significance of the use of the colours YELLOW  and BLUE as an “effect” in the filming of Lisbon Story. What was their effect?

A: In development, one of the most common effects or treatments for film, or for photography, is colour correction.  This practice ensues from an attitude held by many videographers and photographers, where one must concede that the quality of colour captured by a camera, despite how well calibrated it may be, isn’t necessarily true to how someone would see or remember the colour quality of a scene or subject in reality.  Out of the almost infinite potential for adjusting colour of film within our visible spectrum, a clear convention has emerged.  Complementary colours RED and GREEN are considered subordinate for the most part and are often consigned to the fine tuning of an image’s tint.  However, complementary colours BLUE and YELLOW, it is held, are used to adjust an images temperature.  Temperature, because adjusting the image’s colour towards the more yellow or blue ends of the spectrum, produces an effect of making the image feel warmer or cooler respectively.  And of course, to say that an image feels warm or cool, is to say that the image’s appearance evokes a warm or cool visual association.  This idea of association can be taken further by establishing a couple fundamental visual associations and then analyze the use of this sort of colour correcting technique in Wim Wender’s film, Lisbon Story. 

An image that appears more yellow evokes a quality of light and colour akin to the way colours are rendered by the sun light on a clear day.  Memories of warm visuals naturally coincide with warm sensations too, like those of a vibrant afternoon and a sweltering summer’s day.  Hence, there exists a very tight association between a yellower image and a warm sensation.  Conversely, an image that appears bluer evokes a quality of light akin to the way colours are rendered when there is no direct sunlight.  Scenes and objects appear dull, without shadow or highlights, and lifeless.  Associations are of the bleak and overcast, or of a frigid and lifeless winter.  Moreover, when two or more complementary colour qualities, such as these, are combined in the same image, a vibrant and lively contrast is created between.

Wim Wenders uses colour correction not simply as a compensatory technique, but very consciously as an aid or special effect in the telling of his story.  Lisbon Story is a heartfelt parable about artists and their instruments.  It follows a sound engineer (Phillip Winter) who is sent for by his filmmaking friend (Friedrich Monroe) to help him rescue his latest film project.  Friedrich’s problem is that he feels a growing disconnect between Lisbon, his subject, and the authenticity of what he is able to capture with his camera and his aim.  He goes so far as to believe that his film is essentially being poisoned by his own control over what is being filmed.  To him, his film is void of the life that he knows is all around him.  As an artist, Friedrich descends deep into a barren world, a world described very explicitly by Wim Wenders as cold and deprived; the scene appears BLUE.  Phillip, on the other hand, enjoys a healthy, unspoken trust between him and his sound recording equipment.  With a profound appreciation of how much excitement and liveliness of a time and place is conveyed through sound, he is a sort of champion of the art.  And unlike Friedrich, he remembers that the humanizing quality which both appreciate in their arts, is always a product of the artists control and a record subjected to the particularities of a unique and individual perspective.  Because of this appreciation, Phillip enjoys a world full of warmth and the splendor; the scene appears YELLOW.  In and around the city, Phillip wears a blue visor to dye his vision as he is carefully recording sounds, perhaps so he can actively evaluate the integrity of his sounds and their ability to add warmth and life to even the coldest visual counterpart.  In the cold blue light of the band’s recording room, darkness and austerity are, literally and metaphorically, pierced by the warmth of the singers voice and the accompaniment of her band.  These are some very specific examples of how Wim Wenders attempts to be as explicit as he can about the warmth that sound brings.  Using YELLOW and BLUE in this way, which exceeds the traditional mandate, invites the audience to draw more profound impressions, through association, from the characters and their experiences in the story.


12. Michelle Greyling

Q: Comment on the significance of the use of the colours RED/RUST and GREEN as an “effect” in the filming of Lisbon Story. What was their effect?

A: Although an official review or explanation for the use of the colours red,rust and green in the "Lisbon story" was not found, there seem to be rich significance involved with the deliberate use of these colours in the film.

The two main colours that make up the Portuguese flag is red and green. Wim Wenders seem to find both subtle and bold ways to integrate these colours into the film as vehicles to provide rich symbolic meanings to the subject matter. In Portugal both the colours red and green have very specific symbolic meanings. The majority of Portuguese people relate to the colour green as a symbol of hope, while the colour red represents blood and more specifically the blood of the people who fought in wars while serving the country. According to several older traditions red is related with "hardiness, bravery, strength and valour" whereas green is related to "hope, joy and love and is believed to have sacred significance".

Wenders introduce these colours in the beginning of the film with a significant juxtaposition of blood shed and hope. Phillip Winters travel to Lisbon wearing bright red sunglasses while driving a red car that seem to give him a lot of trouble and eventually breaks down. The red car have rich symbolic meaning displaying the effort and blood given to the country by those who fought in wars. The red car seem to be in working order until the border to Portugal is reached, revealing the very existence of the border and it's significance in the history of Portugal. This in contrast to reality as the current border seem to have completely disappeared. Here another interesting use of red and green display great meaning. The gate pole to stop traffic at the border is bright red whereas the landscape of Portugal is an exaggerated green in the background. This may literally symbolise the blood that was shed to establish the border that has allowed Portugal to become the symbol of hope. Phillip Winter, the driver of the red car, seem to find a way to trade in the red car for a ride in a green truck toward Lisbon. Upon arrival in the city of Lisbon an entire group of scenes seem to have been shot with a green filter, displaying to both Winters, and us the viewer, that Lisbon is in fact a symbol of hope. Upon entering the city, Wenders juxtaposes the red and green traffic lights visually to remind us perhaps of the bloodshed of those who fought for the nation. In another rather humorous scene, Winters is dressed in red shorts while killing a mosquito that is annoying him while he is trying to read.

Wenders successfully integrate the colour red and green into each scene, with significant symbolism and the creation of immaculate artistic compositions. Wim Wenders is known to be an image maker and have composed and painted many watercolour paintings. Each scene seem to have a very deliberate colour palette and specifically arranged composition of objects. In the study of colour, green is the complement of red. The complement of the primary colour red is found when mixing the two remaining primary colours blue and yellow which in fact is green. The use of the complement of a primary colour create a significant vibrancy and richness to a composition. Similarly when referring to colours of light, red and green cannot be combined. In certain instances with equal luminance when you are able to blend a red light and a green light they cancel out and a yellowish light is perceived. Also the absence of a red light is green similar to the absence of white which is black. The underlying perception obtained by the use of these two colours alone seems to be quite significant already.

Wenders obviously use these colours in deliberate meaningful ways during each compositional scene. Generally the view of city scape is flooded with the colours red and green. Almost every window frame, door and door frame is painted green and placed in deliberate contrast with the red rustic roof tiles of the houses. Perhaps here Wenders display that the city of Lisbon have been infiltrated and that the red roofs represent or foreshadow forthcoming conflict within the city.

There is a specific scene that reveal this deliberate composition quite clearly. An aerial shot display the red and rust roofs of the houses in the city of Lisbon, and suddenly a green sheet is placed in a seem to be random position however the colour contrast reveal the sheet as focal point. In this scene, the contrast of red and green is manipulated to display an aerial view of the city in all its glory while reminding us that Lisbon indeed is yet a place within a country rather than merely part of the European union. Several scenes depict this very successfully but I am reminded of another two in particular. At Fritz' apartment, a bright red small bucket is randomly placed in a scene with green window frames. Indeed this may have been an indication that trouble has come to his friend, Fritz. In a second scene Winter is lead to an empty staircase, in a warm sunlit atmosphere, where a random green bush is growing in between the cracks of the concrete on one of the stairs. In the light of an artistic composition this scene could rather have been a painting than a scene in this film. The scene is perfectly composed with a central staircase and a ray of light complimenting the green bush. Perhaps this is a ray of hope and a foreshadowing that Fritz will be free from his struggle. Wenders is known to be interested in both painting and the arts. Another interpretation of the use of colour may be that Wenders attempts to link ancient or classical art and film making. In classical art green is said to "represent the Nile and life whereas yellow is a symbol of the sun god and red a representation of power and vitality."

Besides the use of colour in symbolic meaning and the art of image making there seem to be various other suggestions for the use of red and green in the "Lisbon Story". Winters' character seem to represents colour and the love of such vibrant use of colours green and red. During filming Wenders is dressed in green and all of his camera equipment is red. It seems that Wenders places modern film and traditional film in a parallel. He displays an immaculate use of artistic composition in the use of colour that would not be able to be reproduced in black and white or sepia films. By doing this, perhaps Wenders is giving some legitimacy to the use of modern film and the use of colour in cinema. However with the creative and innovative display of image making and use of colour in the Lisbon Story, Wenders reinforce that colour film with all the new technology would still need a talented eye behind the lens.

Another significant use of the colours red and green may be awarded to the use of film filters and modern colour film. Lisbon story was produced in 35mm colour format. In this process, typically three emulsions is present. The top sensitive layer is blue with a yellow filter to expose the red and green sensitive layers by removing the blue light. Perhaps here we could find the significance of all four colours red, green, blue and yellow. These layers are equipped with light-sensitive elements and dye couplers which are components of chemical substances. These couplers are found in the blue, green and red sensitive layers which produce yellow, magenta and cyan respectively during development.

In conclusion, it seems that Wenders intended the use of the colours red and green to be very significant and the implication thereof carefully designed. Wenders use these colours in differing shades from exaggerated and vibrant colours such as those displayed in the landscape outside Lisbon to the dull green colour of interior shots and Winter's sound recording outfit. Although some intent of the significant use of colour in "Lisbon Story" may have been revealed it seems that a lot of hidden meaning is yet to be revealed.

References links:


13. Shane Neill

Q: With respect to the above two questions, why would I separate out the two sets of colours? Work this into a response that talks about the general impact of colour in film as a special effect.

A: Much of the critical literature on Lisbon Story discusses questions of ambiguities in time, border, and identity that are explicit in the film. In the representation of space and time, colour is a primary cinematic element employed to visually construct such ambiguities.

The Space of Colour
In comparing the spatializing effects of the dominant colours by the binary opposition of blue/gold | green/red there emerges a recognition of the ordering of horizontal and vertical spatial conditions. Throughout the film, a horizon is created in the meeting of blue and gold. In the opening scenes, this condition is established with wide shots of the expansive blue sky meeting waving golden fields of grains. Red/green elements are vertical or singular; they are isolated within the field of the screen. Their staccato articulation punctuates holes or exceptions into the continuum of the horizon. The red car travels across the blue/gold horizon. It is a vector. Its magnitude is impotent or comical, and it leaves no trace on the horizon. Implicit in the horizontality and verticality of space is an understanding of time. The horizon is not just spatially expansive, it is also temporally expansive. The red/green are not just spatial anomalies, they are also anomalies in time; they have little or no duration.

The Time of Colour
In On Photography, Susan Sontag questions the limited use of colour in photography drawing the conclusion that photographers left colour to the realm of painting where, in saturated abstraction, colour can be used more potently. Photographers, she says, prefer black and white media, “which are felt to be more tactful, more decorous than color.” (Sontag, 128) Lisbon Story appropriates the painterly use saturated colour. The bright hues in which Phillip dresses abstract him—literally pull him out—from his surroundings. Colour portrays him as hyper-real against the mundane hues of the ‘real’ world. Sontag discusses temporal aspects of colour in photography:
"The real difference between the aura that a photograph can have and that of a painting lies in the different relation to time. The depredations of time tend to work against paintings. But part of the built-in interest of photographs, and a major source of their aesthetic value, is precisely the transformations that time works upon them, the way they escape the intentions of their makers. Given enough time, many photographs do acquire an aura." (Ibid., 140)

This aura does not just effect photographs, but all colours subjected to the sun. Saturation registers novelty or wear; it is the accumulation of passed time that is implicit in the moment. Portugal is sun scorched and run down. Its built environment, skewed white planes coloured gold with sun are highly articulated with the washed-out colours of long forgotten signs and drying clothes. The presence of the foreign element, the German dressed in his saturated monochroma is felt as a tension. His novelty and chromatic incongruity amplifies the reading of wear and poverty in Lisbon. This amplification is further felt in Friedrich’s sepia-toned films of daily Portuguese life. The rendering in sepia tone is disassociated with the blue/gold horizon, with the temporal continuity that connects the past with the future. The sepia ‘past’ is isolated and separate from the reality of the ‘modern’ today.

The Affect of Colour
The use of colour as a special effect—its evocation and concentration—imposes a colour order on the world that is chromatically ambiguous or neutral. The ordering of colour incites its potential affect.

Confronting the productive power of affect therefore allows us to confront what Deleuze refers to as the ‘microperceptions’ that make up who we are—not just the perceptions of the eye that sees and judges, but the disorganised perceptions of the life that pulses through our bodies. (Colebrook, 40)

The microperception of colour ordering is pre-intellectual and experienced physically a priori to symbolic recognition of colour.  In discussing the affect of colours, Deleuze evades a discussion on symbolic use of colour by disassociating symbol and affect. Instead he says, “Colour is on the contrary the affect itself, the virtual conjunction of all the objects which it picks up.” (Deleuze, 118) If the effect of colour is to create continuity/discontinuity or a temporal/atemporal situation, Lisbon Story’s affect is one of inclusion or exclusion. The sepia film carries a disassociative or exoticising affect with it; everything in sepia tone transfers to the viewer the potential energy of separation whether it is felt as nostalgia or anxiety. Perhaps the most powerfully affective scene of the film is when Phillip watches the singer. Phillip, dressed in all blue, stares intensely at the singer while she is bathed in blue light. The blue light is his stare. The affect is one of almost sexual possession or lust as everything is encompassed by blue. The blue is the negation of border or identity ambiguity.


Colebrook, Claire. Gilles Deleuze. New York: Routledge. 2002

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema1. Paris: Editions de Minuit. 1983.

Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 1977.

Tovgaard, Julie Wouwenaar. A quest for European Identity: Representations of European space in European Road Movies of the 1990’s. Master of Arts Thesis. Copenhagen: 2010.


14. Ketul Shah

Q: Discuss the separation of the act of filming “the images” with the “creation of the sounds”. Fritz’ film was silent and Philip was adding the sound based on his sound documentation of the city. How does this impact the use of the daily sounds in the film as “effects”?



15. Jamie Usas

Q: The simple act of purposeful filming is already a simple effect as it modifies the reality of what it is capturing by fixing moments in time. Agree, disagree? Comment in general. (Don’t answer the next question).

A: I believe that the act of filmmaking is an effect which modifies the reality of its viewership.  Lisbon Story raises a specific question relating to the authenticity of a film work biased by the author’s desire to create beauty.  Within the plot of Lisbon Story, director Wim Wenders juxtaposes a traditional narrative-style filmmaking process (the process of Rudiger) against a more accidental and less controlled filmmaking process (the process of Fredrick).  The approach of Rudiger is a process by which life in translated through the filmmaker and expressed as the poetic representation of affect.  By contrast, Fredrick’s approach removes the filmmaker as a medium between life and the camera, so that his own desire to see the city as beautiful, with not bias the the true nature of the city. 

While I find it intriguing to imagine that a certain true nature of life could be discovered if we removed ourselves as filters in the process of capturing life, I believe that our role as filters in capturing life is the most fundamental reason to capture life.  In my opinion, the only purpose of filmmaking is to interpret the world in such a way that it’s representation (the film) can be related to by few or many individuals in terms otherwise impossible to relate.  I would argue that no single human being is interested in seeing life for its true nature, but every human being is fascinated by the chance that another human being could see life’s nature radically different or radically similar to themselves.


16. Maryam Abedini Rad

Q: With reference to the above question, is this different if speaking about Metropolis (constructed set) versus Man with the Movie Camera (live action of city bustling) versus Lisbon Story (live action with combination of city bustling and acting).

A: In Metropolis (1927 by Fritz Lang) ,one can find out that the music played a prominent role during the shooting of the film, since during principal photography many scenes were accompanied by director playing the piano to get a certain effect from the actors.

The subtitles used to convey dialogue make the film easier for a modern audience to follow. The original film would have used captions or dialogue plates following each vital unit of dialogue. (Not all dialogue would be recorded even during the heyday of silent films: the audience scarcely needed them as they were sophisticated readers of films.)

A modern audience, accustomed to simultaneous audio and visual tracks, would find the frequent use of dialogue plates too disruptive; audiences are, however, familiar with subtitling and thus a compromise was reached. A silent film, yet presented so that the audience can understand the dialogue.

Plates are used by Moroder to fill in gaps in the story and to show a movement from one narrative strand to another and they help to retain the 'feel' of a silent film.

This subtle use of music is very attractive. Instead of being used only to create or emphasize an emotional response or to underline action, the music is being used as a narrative device of much more importance than music is usually allowed.

While, "Man with a Movie Camera" (1929, directed by Dziga Vertov) was an effort to show the breadth and precision of the camera's recording ability, and similar films were produced in a few other European countries. The film is a succession of images supposedly showing the audience what the camera eye is seeing on the street and in other places.

Vertov (the director) explained his actions with profound statements such as, "Construction must be understood as the co-coordinating function of Constructivism. If the tectonic unites the ideological and formal, and as a result gives a unity of conception, and the facture is the condition of the material, then the construction discovers the actual process of putting together. Thus we have the third discipline, the discipline of the formation of conception through the use of worked material. All hail to the Communist expression of material building." 

"Man with a Movie Camera "is an experimental silent documentary film, with no story and no actors. A montage of Moscow life is showing the inhabitants through the eye of a movie camera. Its actors are the machines and people of the city photographed in all sorts of situations with the camera following all of their movements. In fact, it is a vital document of a time and place - a day in the life of Moscow. (Live action of city bustling)

Images recorded from real life, but especially his use of montage/editing to turn fragments of celluloid into meaningful duration. The Man with a Movie Camera shows Vertov in love with the power of film to control and compose realities. For the spectator, the experience of viewing film is conditioned by the fact that we watch a single flat screen for a continuous period of time. This is the film object's necessary, inevitable singularity of space and time.

In comparison with the two discussed films "Lisbon story" (the 1994 film from director Wim Wenders) is about A City, Sound and the Cinema. Narrative structure clearly underlies the ability to tell a story and this story is amazing when the viewers can have the sound and the vision together to feel a place and time at the same time. The music does not have the significant role like the silent films and it has a separate role to emphasis on a special situation or action of the actors or narrative. The reality is behind a story this time and let the viewers follow by the rhythm of the film.In this film we have the opportunity to see the live action with combination of city bustling and acting. It is not a documentary film but it shows the efforts to make a live actions of a city that captured and the importance of sound that can make it actual and close to reality. The actors, the sound, the narrative of the film and the music have their separate significant role for success of the Lisbon Story!


17. Talayeh Hamidya

Q: Comment on Fritz's oration that begins with "Pointing a camera is like pointing a weapon". Is the camera itself a device that precludes the capturing of "reality"?




updated 08-Dec-2011 1:26 PM

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