Lisbon Story

Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Winter 2014

Lisbon Story

man with the movie camera

Discussion Questions:

Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. Undergrad answers should be around 400 words. Grad answers should be around 600 words and also include references indicating some research.

Responses are to be submitted to the proper folder in our LEARN Dropboxes. 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.

In this first set of questions we are going to explore the general interpretation of the course theme of "icons + f/x" as we see it expressed in the films.

Log-in to LEARN: here

updated 23-Apr-2014 10:24 PM


1. Kim Adamek

Question: 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?




2. Hillary Chang

Question: 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?

Answer: Lisbon Story places the two ideas of creating "a black and white movie with purposeful sounds" and "a movie filmed by children" into direct comparison as a way to comment on the nature of the creative process. I feel what Wenders is trying to say by presenting this contrast is that when a project becomes overcomplicated, we need to clear these complications and distill exactly what we want to create instead of what we expect to create.

Fritz's original project started off with high expectations of greatness; Fritz effectually overthought the process and became so lost in his project that he went to the complete opposite end of the spectrum and felt that his footage needed to retain its purity and prevent it from becoming unnatural. By forcing a natural sense onto his work, he inadvertantly made his project feel unnatural which defeated his original thesis. Fritz's reaction was one made out of creative desperation; the only way to break his binding expectations was to make his film through the naive eyes of children, who had no expectations for what they were filming and no filter of trying to capture the city as they felt it seemed natural. Perhaps all he needed, and all Wenders was trying to say, was to not try so hard to create something concrete, but to let what comes simply dictate how his project progresses. By forcing something into a natural state that we deem to be natural, we are effectually forcing an unnatural state.



3. Yiu Hei Cheung

Question: 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"?

Answer: Fritz was expressing the feeling of "sucking away" natural life from a subject as it is being filmed and observed, the sense that something natural starts to become unnatural or posed as it is being composed into a film.  As an amateur photographer, I feel that the camera does indeed take away the natural state of being from your subject.

Framing and composing a scene is to crop out the unattractive and reorganize what may not be naturally "perfect" into something that is.  Pointing a camera at someone can cause them to change their expression and demeanor.  In this sense, pointing a camera can be thought of as pointing a weapon, "destroying" what is natural and capturing only what is properly composed, framed, posed, or scripted. 

To counter this, Fritz took to another extreme, he left cameras in trash bins and carried a camera on his back to voyeuristically record the natural state of things without anybody noticing.  The cameraman never saw the shot so nothing was framed and thus nature was left natural.  Though can it not be argued that reality is already augmented by the very thought of trying to capture what is natural?  Fritz may not have personally or intentionally composed the shots, though the "reality" that is captured on these unmanned cameras was still only Fritz's idea of reality.  Reality in its purest form cannot be seen from the vantage point of a garbage bin or on the back of another man, only from One's eyes as they see it, experience it, and live it.  

I do believe it's true that the camera prevents the capturing of reality.  The camera is just a tool to capture the reality that the user believe is true, the reality the user is trying to capture. 


4. Wesley Chu

Question: 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).

Answer: I agree that purposeful filming modifies the reality that it captures, however, and goes beyond simply fixing moments in time. Film or video is not reality, and is at closest, a linear representation of reality. The person operating the camera has completely changed their own role in the reality as it unfolds. They would normally participate in that frame of reality in a wholly different way than when they are operating the camera, trying to fix moments in time instead. The frame lines of the camera give a directed restriction on what the camera can capture. The operator essentially can control what the viewer sees, focuses on, and looks it. The camera is far from a purely observational tool, and in the hands of an artist, it becomes an active viewer through which another audience will watch through and be influenced by. Basically, one has absolutely zero control over what perspective of reality they are exposed to except for the one presented to them by the camera operator. Whatever version of reality that person wants you to see will be the only one possible to see. In truth, reality has an unlimited amount of perspectives in visual, tactile, auditory, and other measures, meanwhile a filmic representation will only communicate one dimension of one of those measures.

We live in the age of information, where the time between the creation of information and the distribution of said information has suddenly decreased, almost to the point of instantaneity. The audience to which it is distributed is much wider, with this information having a broader outreach. Because of these two factors, people are much more wary of having their photo or video taken or any trace of their actions imprinted on a medium that can be replayed and rewatched over and over again. When pointing a camera, like stated in Lisbon Story, it essentially becomes a weapon. When the film starts rolling, a subject is painfully aware that their every action is being physically embedded and immortalized in frames of celluloid. This influences their behaviour whether they mean to or not, effectively killing the supposedly candid nature of reality that one is attempting to capture.



5. Mu Chuan Gao

Question: 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).




6. Maighdlyn Hadley

Question: 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”?

Answer: The separation of the act of filming the moving picture and the creation of the accompanying sounds amplifies both the artificial, fabricated nature of films and the technical processes that go into their production. The depiction of Phillip Winter, a gruff sound engineer with a soft center, provides a sense of honesty and reality throughout. Though the separation of the filming and sound recording makes you aware of the artificiality of cinema, it does not do it in a way that alienates you from the actual film you are watching. The viewer is still caught up in Wenders’ world of dreamy, sleepy Lisbon, and feels invested in the characters and their stories – the young “vidiots” who constantly pester Phillip, the enigmatic Fritz, with his SOS postcard and subsequent disappearance, and the mysterious blue-eyed boy who is always running away. Rather, the separation of the elements in Fritz’s film presents it as a composite - a collage of pieces of Lisbon - rather than a straightforward documentary. It illustrates the ingenuity and craftsmanship necessary to create a product that feels real and honest.

These elements of reality and fabrication are explored through the character of Fritz, the creator of “the images”. His hiatus is eventually revealed to be a result of his disenchantment with the business of film - he feels he has no right to lay a curatorial hand to the world, and that by trying to do so, he is cheapening it. He instead is seeking to capture “unseen pictures”.

The scene that most effectively and comically illustrates the use of everyday sounds as “effects” is the scene in which Phillip uses Foley techniques to create the sound-story of a cowboy riding away on his horse and making a campfire meal of eggs over easy. It is delightful to watch and listen to, and leaves you considering the dissection of what is usually considered one sound into multiple complex components – like using a cocktail of molecules in science class to recreate the smell of a banana. The sound as an effect is often a component of slapstick humour, but it can be much subtler than that. The fall of footsteps from a cobblestone street to a wooden deck, the closing creaky of an old wrought iron gate – sound effects add a richness to film that cannot be captured by any of the other senses.



7. Dan Kwak

Question: 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?

Answer: Generally, the effect of colours in any visual presentation is for creating an appropriate tone for a specific atmosphere. Without any deliberate, extra attention to the appearance of yellow and blue in the film, it would be difficult to notice their specific role as these colours subtly and naturally blend within the natural setting of the narrative. A variety of different hues for yellow and blue is often applied in the background, however, to intentionally provoke a sepiatic, soft atmosphere for the landscape of Lisbon’s archaic city and river. Personally, if I did not pay any extra attention to those two colours independently, I would consume the colours casually along with the landscape. The colours would resonate a soft, mellow atmosphere of Lisbon. However, with closer attention to these two specific colours, their effect in the film portrays more than simply as a tone. First, the high contrast between yellow and blue sets the subject and the background very clearly. Often, Philip is often wearing a vibrant-blue shirt (or blue sun-cap) against the yellowish, light-hue sky or the light yellow walls. While the subject of blue is in a constant motion, the yellow background is settled indefinitely; thus, the contrast enables the audience to clearly grasp the movements of characters in accordance to the mood of the narrative. The best example is when Philip encounters the band in a room shaded by dark navy-blue hue while the light, which illuminates the faces of Philip and the girl, is represented in a very strong yellow-orange hue. This radical and quite coercive contrast between the motion and the background as well as between the characters’ expressions, wholly generates a powerful, resonating impression. Furthermore, the commonality of the colours in a wide spectrum of hues on the varying subjects and objects ceaselessly resonates throughout the entire film. This continuity of blue and yellow is so naturally coordinated to the point where the audience would unconsciously relate subjects and objects in different places and meanings. This effect is subconsciously brainwashing. There is a certain symbolic stance; yellow camera bag in a blue, broken-down car to yellow sunlight, blue sky or shadow, for example. Considering the film was originally intended for promoting the city of Lisbon, the effect of the colours as means of creating a warm and tender atmosphere of the city is successfully executed. One would be left with the softness of the landscape of Lisbon after watching the film. However, the director applied the effect of the contrast between yellow and blue to different purposes to associate symbolic meanings between different subjects and to portray varying moods by the constant contrast between subjective motion and objective background.



8. Karan Manchada

Question: 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?




9. Milos Mladenovic

Question: 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.

Answer: The use of color is obviously a very useful effect in film. Just like many films that stick in your memory partly due to their characteristic use of color (i.e. Gattaca, Space Odyssey, Pistol Opera, Only God Forgives, etc.), Lisbon Story is definitely a film that plays with color to achieve something, primarily with the combinations of yellow with and red/rust with green. Initially, I attempted to connect the selective use of these colors, within the set and props but also at times as environmental lighting that seems to tint the entire scene, with the events and actions going on within those scenes. I noticed that my recollection of Friedrich associated his character with a yellowish atmosphere, while Philip brings up images primarily tinted in green or more Earthy tones. For example, when Friedrich walks with the boy at his side, speaking to himself, near the end of the film, the sky and environment are mostly yellow, and when he is listening to Philip's monologue, he is sitting in a distinctly blue car set against a yellow sky and sand. When Peter is in his apartment, on the other hand, accessing the sounds of Lisbon, he is in a greenish space. The Portuguese singer wore a striking red dress when in Philip's view. The two color sets came to be associated with the very opposite characters (Philip and Friedrich) in their differing views of Lisbon, expressed clearly in each of their monologues to the other at the end. However, many times there were disruptions in the continuity of these two color sets, such as Philip wearing a blue shirt in his green apartment. The contrast between these two color sets (yellow with blue and red/rust with green) however also simply made for a tremendously distinctive and coherent viewing experience. The bright cameras carried by the boy throughout the film were a pretty unifying element for the use of contrasting colors in most scenes.

Thus I ended up thinking more importantly about the general impact of colour in film as a special effect. I found that the Wenders' major themes had a lot to do with how he was applying these different colors in the film. It's interesting that when certain scenes, such as Friedrich sitting in the blue car at the end of the film, or Philip listening in the dark room to the two full Portuguese songs, Wenders was actually able to use these colors as a means of literally tinting the reality we were viewing. The entire discussion about filming reality, and the differing views of Philip and Friedrich, is brought together very well with the use of color as an effect to play with this concept in terms of what was occurring on the screen. Just as in the book, If it's Purple Someone's Going to Die, certain colors are often associated with certain emotions or moods, and can thus be applied as a very effective tool in films to set an atmosphere, enrich what is being shown, or even foreshadow what has yet to occur. There is of course a psychological dimension to this as well, where we naturally or by cultural conditioning come to associate, for example, blue with calmness, red with energy, green with regeneration, and so on. In this way, just like the soundtrack, it can be one of the simplest but most powerful effects impacting a film. Had this film not had such a distinctive filtering and selection of colors throughout, I believe the effect on the viewer and the clarity of its intentions would definitely not have been as substantial as they are. Separating the two sets of colors helps look at how specific different color tones can have an impact on the film, especially in the context of what is going on at those particular moments where they are prominent within the scene and environment or purposely applied as a filter.



10. Arturo Enrique Morales Rivera

Question: 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?

Answer: I believe that what Wenders did was to show that it is possible to present an accurate and touching reflection of reality regardless of who is behind the camera or what kind of equipment is being used, as the images that are being filmed are always going to be imperfect, just as real life is bound to be imperfect; at first, this can be seen in the traveling sequence where everything that can go wrong with Mr. Winters car goes wrong, but he still manages to arrive at his final destination as it was intended.

Furthermore, in real life we never get to choose the situations in which we all end up, whatever they are, but at the same time this uncertainty is what gives an otherwise dull and predictable existence its color, its texture and its meaning. For example, all of the encounters that Winters rans into during his stay at Friedrich’s house provide him with an insight of what happens in Lisbon in a day-to-day basis. As the film progresses, it is assumed that Winters starts to understand the underlying beauty of the city, as his facial expressions began to change as well as the way in which he conducts himself while making the recordings.

Ze’s footage is also proof that films doesn’t have to be perfect to portray a touching scene or story. His videotapes are shaky -courtesy of not having a tripod- the composition and framing aren’t optimal and the footage is full of grain; nonetheless, all of these features contribute to what results in a very simple yet effective scene of Sofia practicing ballet in the house.

It can be argued that the black and white film left to Winters by Friedrich is an attempt to capture the real spirit of Lisbon, and as far as images go he succeeded, but its not a faithful representation of a city full of culture and folklore, as it is represented by the sounds, noises and music that Winters records. Friedrich’s breakdown results from his belief that he cannot portray something as beautiful as real life through the use of a camera because, being a film maker, techniques only drown what he eagerly tries to recreate, which is why he continues to film using his “unseen image” concept.

This proves to be an accurate statement towards the end of the film, when both Friedrich and Winters start filming together and having fun while doing it. It ceases to be an obligation and starts to feel natural, just as real life.


  11. Morgan O'Reilly

Question: 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?

Answer: ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ and ‘Lisbon Story’ are both films about the making of documentaries. This concept of a film about the making of a film is used strategically to exhibit and promote the cultures which the documentaries focus on. ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ is driven by a political agenda, whereas ‘Lisbon Story’ was made to better public perception of the city. ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ takes a spectator’s position of the making of the documentary, while ‘Lisbon Story’ uses a personal narrative. These different approaches affect the representation of the cities and the technologies being used capture them. As a result, ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ directs the audience to a very specific interpretation of Soviet culture, while ‘Lisbon Story’ seduces the viewer into a concept of Lisbon that fosters contemplation and reflection.

‘Man with a Movie Camera’, follows an unnamed film maker as he films various events in Soviet cities over the course of a 24hour day. The audience does not get to know the film maker, as his work and the technology involved in the making of the documentary take precedence. The viewer is shown a montage of images of modern Soviet Union in rapid succession. Shots of people at work and at play, machinery, transportation, streetscapes and architecture flash across the screen. Filmed in three different cities, Odessa, Kiev and Moscow, the film depicts fruitful labour in an age of industrialization and advancing technologies, which overshadows the representation of the actual cities. As a result, the viewer is directed to a very specific concept of the culture rather than a sense of place.

In contrast, ‘Lisbon Story’ takes a narrative form and follows the activities of a sound engineer, Philip Winter, who is visiting Lisbon for the first time to record sounds for a documentary about the city. The audience experiences the city with Winter. The ancient inviting streetscapes, the stark modernist constructions on the outskirts of the city and the beautifully worn interiors of the film maker’s apartment are not simply shown to the viewer, but discovered through the narrative. This visual representation combined with the haunting music of the Portuguese band, Madredeus and the various sounds recorded for the documentary, create an enigmatic tone, which draws Winter into Lisbon, followed closely by the viewer.

In ‘Man with a Movie Camera’, the representation of the filming technologies utilized plays a fundamental role. The viewer is shown the tricks behind the filmmaker’s shots as well as the actual editing of the film. Furthermore the quick-paced editing cannot be ignored, while the use of various cinematic techniques, including double exposure, fast motion, slow motion and reverse motion were considered experimental at the time. The limitless capabilities of the medium are demonstrated and the technology is celebrated and used to further direct the audience’s interpretation of Soviet cities towards its overt message of a fast moving, advancing, modern society.

In ‘Lisbon Story,’ however, it is the magic of cinema and sound recording, rather than the technology which is used to draw the viewer even further into a poetic view of Lisbon. While it is interesting to observe the work of a sound engineer, it is Winter’s mission to record the sounds of Lisbon, through which the viewer discovers the city. Furthermore, towards the end of the film, as the filmmaker struggles to come to terms with the commercialization of images, Winter encourages him to return to the making of the Lisbon documentary saying, ''Why waste your life on disposable junk images when you can make indispensable ones with your heart on magic celluloid?'' The technology becomes something personal and the notion of capturing images of Lisbon with the heart romanticizes the city even further. Both films were made with a specific purpose. ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ was made with the intention of promoting an idealized view of Soviet culture to the point where the film has been called propaganda. ‘Lisbon Story’ was actually commissioned by the city of Lisbon to promote and improve perception of the cityi.

Both films use the making of a documentary in this endeavour, however differ greatly in the way they do so. ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ takes a spectator’s position to overtly deliver the message, telling the viewer exactly what they should think about life in Soviet cites. ‘Lisbon Story’, however uses a personal narrative, which instills the city with emotion and a sense of possibility. The viewer is guided to discover the city and its allure.


i Maslin, Janet. “Lisbon Story (1994) A City, a Sound and the Cinema in Mutual Thrall.” New York Times, August 1997.


Grant Tracey. Man with a Movie Camera.

Roger Ebert. Man with a Movie Camera.‐movie‐man‐with‐amovie‐ camera‐1929

Wikipedia. Lisbon Story (1994 film).

Wikipedia. Man with a Movie Camera.     



12. Patrick Rossiter

Question: 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.

Answer: Before:

The title doesn’t give much away other than a sense of place. Before seeing this film and only knowing its name I thought the film would be set in Lisbon or at least Portugal, or at the very least Little Portugal. Lisbon is an interesting place that could be the backdrop for many stories. Lisbon has such a rich history being the capital of Portugal, it is an ideal setting for any artistic endeavour.


Personally, I believe the title “Lisbon Story” is probably the best possible name for the film. The film has been described as having “no clear structure, and no consistently cohesive or progressive dialogue.”i Because of this fact the film is hard to pin down, and certainly hard to name.

A few reasons why “Lisbon Story” is a suitable name -

One reason being that the film maker has taken the great time and care to film the city in detail and lace Lisbon’s culture and people carefully into the story. Lisbon’s history, architecture, and music play a huge role in the film and the stories development. The viewer is forced to listen more intently to the sounds of the city – with the main character being a sound engineer – he is highly sensitive to the sound of his surroundings with the aid of his equipment, this makes the viewer slow down and listen more intently. The fabric of the movie is the place, it is Lisbon.  As much as the movie is about the scenery of Lisbon it is equally about the sounds of Lisbon. This aspect of hearing the sounds of Lisbon more closely is accented with the use of the traditional Portuguese Music of Fado – Fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a characteristic sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia.ii

In essence, Lisbon or Portugal should be in the title as 90% of the story happens in and around Lisbon. The story begins with our main character taking the journey from Germany to Lisbon. He does not really interact with anyone until he reaches Portugal. When he finally reaches the capital Lisbon – at this point the movie really becomes about the place and the life that happens within its borders. The imagery of the narrow streets and trolley cars are the immediate introduction to the ancient city. The city and its culture help immerse the film in a rich atmosphere

A final and deeply personal reason - for me the name was also well suited because it gave little information away other than the potential location – this made the film full of surprises, the story was impossible to predict, which is something I like as in modern days most of the story in a movie is given away with the title and it’s trailer.

I am unable to generate any other completely new name for the film without insulting the artistic integrity of the project – so possible alternatives may include Sounds of Lisbon or perhaps The Soundsmith of Lisbon. As the story has to do with and completely unfolds within Lisbon the name Lisbon Story is a perfect fit.

i “Lisbon Story,” March 3, 2013,


ii  Fado, February 1, 2014,



13. Adam Schwartzentruber

Question: 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?




14. Simone Tchonova

Question: 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?

Answer: When the majority of people watch a film they don’t initially imagine how the movie or certain scene may have been created they simply experience the film as a viewer. This experience can be compared to going to an art gallery and viewing a painting. One does not initially think about the brushes or techniques used to portray a certain reality but one simply experiences and most likely accepts the painting for what it is.

In film it is possible to present the viewer,the process of filmmaking. This is done by showing a camera actively filming a scene. The first time we see this occurring in Lisbon Story is when Philip Winter has finally arrived to his room/apartment in Portugal. He makes friends with a young boy who is more than enthusiastic about filming Philip with his very own video camera. At this moment I believe that the viewer is subconsciously nudged to imagine what scene the boy’s camera may be filming and how that looks from the eye of the camera. This event can be further taken as to say that it spurs the idea that Lisbon Story was also recorded with an unknown character behind the camera and shot. In this case the camera acts as a veil which chooses which parts of reality to reveal and which to enclose. Showing the boy filming unveils a vulnerable part of filmmaking that the situation on screen is not equal to the entire reality of the surroundings. This idea is later brought up by Monroe, the film director, who is worried he can no longer film without his own perception invading the reality of the moment. He is afraid the city (in this case Lisbon) can not be captured as the true hybrid medievalindustrialized city that it is. Finally Philip attempts to tell him it is okay to present your own perception of a place, as long as you realize and accept that it is not the pure reality of a moment and that this essence can not be captured on film. I believe that the director of Lisbon Story is himself letting us know that the film we are watching does not depict the raw city of Lisbon not a precise representation.

In Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera this same concept of presenting viewers with the information that film is only a perceived reality is strongly evident. For example he shoots a scene where a motorcyclist is being shot, followed by a cinematographer filming the motorcyclist and then shows this sequence projected in a theatre. Vertov pushes the audience to think about themselves and their position within the film world. By presenting the camera he proves that film is only a perceived version of the existing reality. Both films prove that it is only fragments of the city that we are experiencing and not the whole city as it truly is.



15. Yiming Wang

Question: 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?




16. Victor Zagabe

Question: 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.

Answer: The opening travel sequence depicts the experience of travelling on a long road trip, across various different lands. The way in which the radio clips were edited served to either compliment and tell more about a particular landscape, or tell the audience about the thoughts of the driver as they were driving through a particular place. For example, the use of very Parisian music as the car ventures in the french avenues. This method of appropriating the music to the environment is a clear example of the radio clips being edited to tell more about a particular landscape. In contrast, the sound of Portugese music heard while the driver is not yet at the border to portugal, tells a story of the driver preparing himself in order to be able to immerse into that particular culture.

In addition to that, the fragmentation of the radio clips serve as a device to tell the story of the driver’s memory as it changes across the landscapes. Due to the fact that the clips vary in languages, the audience begins to see how the previous landscape begins to alter the thought of the driver as he transitions into another one.

Ultimately, the careful editing of the radio into the various moving landscapes tells a story of a man’s thoughts and sentiments as he ascends new thresholds.



17. Kyle Jensen

Question: 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?

Answer: I feel that in Lisbon Story, Friedrick’s idea of filming the city with his camera on his back is an interesting concept that manipulates the way in which we see the action of the city. In doing so his idea was to remove himself from the roll of cameraman, as the viewer has control of how any location is portrayed when documenting life. This type of filming removes responsibility from the film maker resulting in a non convoluted perspective that is completely unbiassed as the act of choosing shots is out of the cameraman’s hand.

In the Man with the Movie Camera, by Dziga Vertov, a similar sort of film was made, as it shows the life of people in Russia at a specific time in history. The problem with this type of visual collection is that it is very much a collection of how the camera man portrays the city. There is always a certain amount of choice when it comes to showing people’s emotions with specific frames. Especially because, in Russia at the time, a negative outlook of the population would have been banned so one can not be sure of its true representation of the location. The final judgement is always in the eye of the recorder and as such always carries with it a certain amount of bias when expressing the overall atmosphere of a city.

People’s true emotions aren’t always shown when a camera is present, as in the “smile for the camera expression”. People may be shy or act a clown in front of the camera if they are aware of its existence and that they are being filmed. Its human nature to change their mannerisms when they feel they are being recorded, leading to a false representation of human existence. This is known as the Hawthorn effect, also referred to as the observer effect, a phenomenon that shows a change in human habits when being observed and singled out as an independent character. In this way, filming off his shoulder (or in a bag, also seen in the film) creates a truer representation of human nature because people do not know that they are being filmed, creating a better opportunity to catch a real to life depiction of human nature.

Although the control of framing shots during filming has been put aside to make room for the record of true human nature; the cameraman does still hold a certain amount of power in what the subject matter of his work holds since he still chooses where and when he is filming. Scenes based on where and when are still powerful tools in creating atmosphere as the weather, lighting, season and our own memories paint a very different picture of emotions. For instance, he may choose to go to the beach, a place where happiness and fun exist which can be seen very clearly through the camera even if the filming is hidden from view. Now if he had chosen to walk through a cemetery with a funeral taking place, the film recorded would not be cheery and upbeat as it was at the beach but sad and subdued. In this film, Friedrick seems to focus on the abandoned or the derelict aspects of Portugal which is a partial representation but not a broad picture of its overall atmosphere. He is still in control of the overall mood in his films as the time and place is still in his control so an impartial eye is still not possible.

I feel it is extremely difficult to capture the true essence of human activity in a place with video, as the eye of the film maker is full of creative interests that differ from other people’s focus. Seeing behind a person’s back instead of their point of view changes the perspective of the observer in a way that removes human face to face interaction which I feel is a key component to the action of the city. Therefore, this type of recording does not show human nature as well as choosing the subject matter as you only get one man’s journey through the city with little interaction of others since it does not record a face to face conversation only a stop in the forward progression. I would much prefer a broad scope of clips within a city that are put together in order to see the pros and cons of the location, but are chosen for their merit. I was happy to see that at the end of the movie they returned to a more focused, methodical way of filming where he trusts his own judgment to portray human life as he saw it in his own perspective. There is merit in the eye of the observer, and a point of view that should be expressed.

citation: Franke, R. H. & Kaul, J. D. (1978). The Hawthorne experiments: First statistical interpretation. American Sociological Review, 1978, 43, 623-643.



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