443/646: Architecture and Film
last updated December 28, 2004
|x||1. The film is set in 1980. Do you think that the scientific advancements projected from 1930 to 1980 were thought to be realistic? (for 50 years of time)||x|
Just Imagine projects into the 1980s by introducing scientific advancements, some of which would have seemed feasible and some seen, certainly, as too otherworldly or ambitious to be realistic, to an audience in the Depression.
The film introduces scientific and technological innovations in what could be called a semi-strategic manner, coaxing the audience into a gradual suspension of disbelief. For example, as an audience, we are presented in the beginning of the film with a city full of commuting citizens piloting personal airplanes. In the characters’ dwellings we see a video projection when someone comes to call and an automatic hand dryer being used in the bathroom. These events, although by no means common practice in the 1930s, would still seem feasible projections due to these ideas being based on existing technologies and scientific knowledge. Our suspension of disbelief is in some way formed and prepared for the much more outrageous scientific projections to be presented later in the film.
As the film progresses, we are introduced to a character who was struck by lighting in the 1930s being revitalized by a group of scientists in the 1980s. We are presented with vending machines which not only provided meal and drink supplements in pill form, but also children. We also see the protagonists fly to Mars in a rocket, shooting effortlessly from star to star.
The film is a strange hybrid of musical comedy and science fiction, a genre which does not lend itself well to being realistic. However, I do believe it to project ideas which could be perceived as realistic over a span of fifty years.
Compare the cross section of the New York of Just Imagine with the proposition
for Metropolis in terms of density and building character.
If one accepts that the “Skyscraper” imagery of Metropolis and Just imagine is a cross section of New York City, then Metropolis is Downtown and Just imagine is Midtown. The skyscrapers of Metropolis are tightly packed and dense, dense enough for skystreets to span between buildings. Just Imagine has space between skyscrapers, space sufficient for personalized planes for commuting.
The portrayal of the urban grain in Just Imagine is larger in scale than Metropolis. The buildings are taller, there appear to be more of them and there is substantial space between them. The buildings of Metropolis are overbearing reflecting a view of the urban as causation for human suffering – the Machines must be fed. The density of buildings is overbearing and is always presented from the pedestrian vantage point – humanity is dwarfed. In Just imagine there is a positive attitude to the urban where humanities ultimate metaphor to personal freedom is common place – one can fly around in it at will. The expanses between buildings present an elevated vantage point - humanity is free.
There is a distinct Upper World and Lower World in Metropolis that is used to symbolize a privileged ruling class and a downtrodden working class. The city of Just Imagine reflects no class struggle. The conflicts in the film are implied to be a class struggle with the Hero being the underdog but the City is the same City for both players in conflict. Everybody gets to fly a plane.
The skyscraper building character is treated differently in both films. Metropolis has a Gothic overture to the skyscraper facades, dark spaces between buildings and use of catacombs. It is a motif associated with mans view of himself as a lesser being standing in awe of the cosmos, certainly not in control of it. Just Imagine depicts the character of the buildings as Modern motif. The buildings are taller and lighter with large glass expanses. The Modern character of the buildings is associated with mans view of Modernism, a view of himself as progressive and change as a positive.
use “Skyscrapers” as the definitive image of the future city
but each film portrays that future differently and that difference carries
over in the building character. The Gothic “Skyscrapers” of
Metropolis reflect a warning of mans possible future while the Modern
“skyscrapers” of Just Imagine reflect a spoof on progress,
a more humorous warning, but still a warning. The future city is probably
still a cross section of New York City – somewhere between Downtown
|3. If Just Imagine is a parody of Metropolis, what was the motivation, when the US premiere of Metropolis was such a success?|
motivation behind Just Imagine was to present the audience with a very exciting
and confident view of the future. To do so Fox created a musical comedy
that paralleled Fritz Lang’s box office success, Metropolis.
To analyze why Fox would create a parody of Metropolis one must allow them self to “Just Imagine“. However, rather then speculating on the exciting possibilities of the future, one must “just imagine” what it was like to live in the 1930‘s.
Just imagine it’s the 1930‘s, a period plagued by the great depression.
Just imagine you work everyday 9 till 5 at the local factory.
Just imagine you live in constant fear of losing your job.
Just imagine your clothes are hand-me-downs found in the street.
Just imagine your own baby is wrapped in blankets with no clothes on underneath.
Just imagine, you have to portion the food you have wisely
Just imagine, standing in a line for hours for a crumb or crust of bread.
Now just imagine viewing Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. A movie that reveals hopes and fears for technology in the future. A movie that depicts a technological utopian city that is oppressed and exploited. A movie that leaves a chilling vision of the future city and urban life.
Therefore, the motivation behind creating Just Imagine was to “just imagine” the great possibilities 1980 had to offer the great depression. It had the possibility of landing man on mars, it had the possibility of using planes rather then cars for transportation, and it had the possibility of having alcohol (prohibition) and food in pill form. Now just imagine how this film could give one a cheerful and exciting outlook on the future metropolis. Joshua Bedard 3B
|4. The use of numbers/letters instead of names could be interpreted to be a take-off on the use of numbers for the workers in Metropolis. Why has the use been extended beyond the lower classes?|
of numbers and letters instead of names is used in Metropolis to accentuate
an inferiority of the subterranean workers to the high rise metropolis
dwellers (ie. Frederson). The use of numbers in Just Imagine, however,
is used to emphasize the technological advancement which exists in 1980.
By using numbers and letters instead of names a clear lack of humanity
is present which accentuates all the technological advancements. A clear
comparison is made in this film not between different classes of people,
but between people and technology. In Metropolis a commentary is made
on human interaction. In Just Imagine, however, the commentary has more
to do with human identity. Will humanity be able to hold true to the values
and virtues it held so dear in “the good ol days” in the future
or will the robotic nature of new technology force people into a lifeless
predefined experience of life? That is a question which seems to be provoked
by this movie. Perhaps this was a question which many people in the 1930s
were asking themselves….and perhaps it is a question that we are
still asking ourselves today.
|5. Compare the costumes in Just Imagine to those in Metropolis. How do they relate to the period of filming/proposed setting? What in any way makes them futuristic?|
|In both Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and DeSylva, Brown
and Henderson’s Just Imagine the costume choices portray different
things about the futures proposed therein. In the former, the costumes are
regulated throughout classes and by doing so reinforce a future reliant
on this division. In Just Imagine, the differing costumes between races
reinforce the division between people on earth, and the ‘people’
on Mars as two possible futures.
In Metropolis people are characterized to the below and above ground, or poor and rich people. The workers are decked out in matching coveralls, identified by numbers, devoid of personality, further limiting their independence. The bourgeoisie are always in suits, enforcing the division between them and their grunts, the workers who make their lives possible.
In Just Imagine, the numbering system has been extended beyond the working class into all of humanity on earth. This is a reinforcement of the lack of identity that people have in a world so technologically advanced that the human factor is quickly being removed. The garments of the people on earth support this with pocketless trousers. If pockets hold personal belongings, then no pockets can hold no personal belongings, another strike against autonomy. The costumes themselves are native to the time period of the filming (1930’s) but their adaptation to the future is apparent in their function and design, take for instance the ‘Stay-Out’ dress which transforms to the occasion. The fact that everyone wears these catchy numbers is a testament to the lack of autonomy. The garb of the Mars-ians is much different than their earthly neighbours. They are expressive and unique in their costumes and each different rank of Marsian has a very different costume, where the earthlings have come dressed similarly. This contrast serves as an alternate reality to the one on earth, where autonomy has no presence.
The two films both use their costumes to identify a barrier
between two distinct types, be they workers and bourgeoisie or humans
and aliens. In either case the depiction of the costumes strengthens these
|6. J-21: “Everything’s been done in aviation that can be done”. Comment. What was the intention of this given the timeframe of making/planning the movie?|
start of the movie, the protagonist J-21 commented on New York City set
in 1980 as “Everything’s been done in aviation that can be done”.
By proclaiming the aviation technology of the United States will reach its
ultimate limit of advancement in 50 years time, this does not only explain
the setting of the movie, but also a necessary act in order to state its
significance in American history.
Just Imagine was made in 1930, while America was going through the great
Depression. In the 1930s, the unemployment rate rose to 25%, money was
scarce and people found going to movies an uplifting way to escape problems
in real life. Movies with element of comedy and fantasy are usually well
received. Therefore, presenting the future America as a strong and advanced
civilized society both guarantees the box office sales, and presents a
snapshot of America’s cultural history in 1930 – a time when
it was necessary to restore the confidence in America, reassuring the
times of Depression will end before long.
|7. Comment on the use of air travel for getting about town. Relationship between style of planes of the proposed time with planes of the 1930s. How have they been made futuristic? Is it enough?|
is a film set in a world that is an adventurous prediction of the future
metropolis. The film makes bold statements regarding improvements in basic
facets of everyday life. One facet it comments on is transportation. The
major mode of transportation in the city is air travel. In comparison
to both today and in the 1930s, this method of transportation makes traffic
seem wide open and more free to the traveller. Pilots are allowed to move
in three dimensions, which provides a very effective alternative to our
problematic congested roads, and greatly improves travel time. The pilots
are free to travel at their own pace, and even can move from plane to
plane, as the characters do for a more intimate conversation in transit.
A definite positive side effect to air traffic is the ability for the
ground plane to be a strictly pedestrian space. This is an insightful
look at a way to improve our urban condition today.
Shane Czyphya 3B
8. Why do you think that cars (which weren’t that old at the time) were abandoned in favour of air travel? Why were they retained as the dominant method of travel in Metropolis, only 4 years earlier?
In Just Imagine, “New York is presented fifty years into the future as a completely different city with an entirely changed skyline and urban organization”. Due to its futuristic component, this sci-fi film adopted modern technologies, such as airplanes and incorporated them as elemental to everyday life as a form of transportation. This practical response to the need to relocate is based on efficiency and speed (aspects of the machine age). Still obvious practicalities do not diminish the element of romance, enhanced by the presence of beautiful and wondrous high flying machines and scenes, where film characters soar through the skies, meeting and making exchanges miles above the ground. In both the scenarios played out in Just Imagine and Metropolis the directors incorporated the planes for romance. They were also foreseeing a future of super skyscrapers and personal airplanes.
We cannot deny the “enthusiasm for technology” in both films. Metropolis explores modes of transportation, highly developed and intricate infrastructural gestures and routes. All of which were intended to demonstrate, describe and characterize future possibilities and the intricacies of the plots and sub plots present in the film. “Set design had to create more than just a background. It had to accompany the plot, underlining and commenting on it”. Hence it is possible to interpret the incorporation of airplanes as opposed to car as a suggestion of plot and possibility. It was part of a futurist vision of lifestyle in an urban city and directly linked to the plot of the film, which accordingly takes place in a futurist setting.
The complex infrastructure and structures designed for Metropolis demonstrate and represent the dynamic and intricacies of social and technological development respectively. These aspects co-exist and intermingle. The filmmaker demonstrates his version of their impacts and connectivity. The airplanes flying over and under, passing by and through with great ease and mobility, displacing as we the viewers do through the setting are a mean by which to create a metaphor and visual description based on the plot and subplot. In the same instance buildings, routes, events and characters round out and contribute to the whole of the production. Therefor technology, newly adapted modes of transportation and modern design (the city’s architecture) allow us to better imagine a city of the future. These aspects and the method in which they are employed draw us into the film and make believable the themes and events that form the movie.
Airplanes, an aspect of the futurist vision, were also important to the architects responsible for the set design. The “film will be faithful to the architects boldest dreams”. The architecture and infrastructure of the above world mirror similar concepts and aesthetics. A multiple of layered materials, windowpanes and mullions form the city and reach vertically to the sky. Large strips and bands made into bridges pass over and under each other. Similarly planes flew through and about invisible trajectories in the sky.
To further expand on why planes were essential and opted for over cars in Metropolis we can discuss a few aspects attributed to sci-fi films of this era and the machine age. “The Machine Age – a period of sweeping technological changes stretching roughly between 1914 and 1939—rocketed the world into the future. Urban landscapes began sprouting setback skyscrapers, cable-spun bridges, and blinking radio towers. At the close of World War 1, a new machine aesthetic insinuated itself into this milieu, giving further rise to two ubiquitous modes of transportation—the automobile and the airplane—capable of diminishing great distances with unthrottled velocity. At the heart of this machine aesthetic were the principals of flight and speed—both reflected in the art and design of this era”. The airplanes in the films were symbols of sorts of the machine age’s outlook, aesthetic (beautiful machines) and principals. Even the architecture of the film embodied characteristics determined by the machine age, beautiful glowing buildings that operate similarly to machines. However flight and speed were largely embodied by the planes in Metropolis, as well as romance. “Lang transcribes the skyline that he had earlier witnessed from New York’s harbor to create a cinematic cityscape of the future, one that spatially delineates the paradoxical attitudes of a nation caught between “ the rational and irrational, between pragmatic and romantic”.
developments in special effects enabled the design team for the film to
incorporate images of airplanes. They simulated flight over the futuristic
urban context of Metropolis, “ the effects of motion was again achieved
by shooting frame by frame and by individually advancing each car, airplane,
train and elevator between each shot”. Therefore technological innovation
in movies encouraged the incorporation and adaptation of elements such
as airplanes, flying through a scene in constant motion through a single
trajectory. The airplanes were brought into new types of scenes, incorporated
into scenic landscape scenes, contexts that had not been explored previously.
Similarly these new scenes resulted in creating a futuristic context that
leapt from background to foreground the overriding issues, technology
its uses and evils presented in Metropolis.
|9. Skyscrapers such as the Woolworth Building 1913 were already a reality in NYC. The existing NY skyline was said to have influenced both Metropolis and Just Imagine. What architectural moves were made in the design of this set to place this existent style of architecture of the city in the future? Were they successful? Why or why not?|
The futuristic architecture in film, although being part of a representational theatrical stage, shares similar analytical discussions as that of present day non-fictional architecture. To describe a building one must think initially of its type. What type is the building representing? A residential dwelling one hundred years ago has characteristics pertaining to its type as seen in modern residential dwellings of today. Therefore even though outside influences on architecture change with time, architecture will still have a common disposition based on its type, function and/or classification. In the films Metropolis and Just Imagine, the viewer is transported into the future. Buildings are modeled as idealized forms based on technology and the new ways of the future. Futuristic film high-rises, as compared to the skyscrapers of New York reach immeasurable distances into the air. Limits are pushed based on size, height, and density. However the fundamental “type” of the structure is still clear to the viewer. Residences high in the sky situated in the soaring skyscrapers retain qualities needed to function as a residence. For example, instead of parking garages, homes have landing pods for futuristic flying machines. An underlying connection to the present is maintained in the architecture of these films for it allows the future to be conceivable. Although there are similarities represented in the architecture, there are also contrasts. They can be seen in the relation with nature. Nature seems to be diminished in futuristic settings as man-made structures hold precedent. Concrete and steel are the number one choices for materials to be used. As well, nature holds a more horizontal form in its growth, whereas in the film’s future, architecture soars vertically into the sky. This contrast and comparison are alternated within futuristic films to give the viewer something to relate to but at the same time shock them into having awe for the future. In this respect, the film makers are successful in achieving an appropriate setting for the future, with slightly stream-lined buildings accommodating technological and sociological enhances of the day.
Andrea Krejcik 3B
|10. Why focus on the issue of arranged/approved marriages as the problem of future society?|
Ever since the period of Romanticism in the 18th century, philosophers have acknowledged the importance of emotion and feeling over reason, and criticized Newtonian physics for its mechanical view of nature. The Romantics believed that we should obey to our innate principles, where feeling and emotion dominate over reason and science as the ultimate arbiter of truth.
The protagonist of Just Imagine lives in a world of science and technology, in a society stricken with mechanical order and lack of identity of its people. Humanity seems to have diminished to names being replaced by numbers, and people are deprived of earthly pleasures such as savouring a delicious meal or sipping a glass of wine. The notion of human emotion has been suppressed, as the characters live towards a culture of mechanization and extreme dictatorship. This is emphasized by the arranged marriage of LN-18, where the court decides, disregarding her love for J-21, that she should marry another individual. Hence, the plot of Just Imagine revolves around the struggle of J-21 trying to win the hand of LN-18, signifying the fight between human emotion and the society governed by strict scientific and rational law.
addresses the issue of arranged marriage as a problem of future society
as a message that human emotion and identity cannot be suppressed in favour
of a mechanized society, and that human emotion will naturally overcome
the laws of science and reason.
|11. How has fashion been modified to advance to the 1980s (or has it?) Compare to the use of fashion in Metropolis.|
portrayal of the future, the 1980s, was very interesting to see. Some elements
were taken very far, such as the idea of transportation, architecture, and
daily activities, while other aspects were left relatively similar. Fashion,
was one of these aspects. And although the film contained specific references
to the fashion of the 1980’s, little modification was done to the
current style. The film was released in 1930; just at the transformation
of fashion from the 1920’s to 30’s. The flapper fashion was
being phased out by a new glamorous look. Dresses that clung to the body
and draped down to floor, and the backless evening gown became very popular.
Just Imagine took this new style and simply exaggerated it. The dresses
in the film were definitely more revealing than typical fashion, emphasizing
women’s sensuality, but it still used the same methods that were in
vogue. A specific reference was made to the one virtually backless gown,
as something soon all the women would be wearing. The men’s fashion
was given a somewhat futuristic feel by moving the buttons to the side of
the suit jacket and eliminating all but one pocket, perhaps commenting on
the simplicity of the new modern life. But the men still wore suites, complete
with a tie and a hat. Not varying much form the excepted fashion of the
Although the fashion in Just Imagine didn’t go too far beyond the
vogue of the time, it still managed to give off a futuristic feel, simply
by exaggerating the up and coming trends or making small but evident changes.
However, Metropolis didn’t seem to be overly concerned with the
portrayal of futuristic fashion. It used the appearance of the city to
give the film the character it needed. Men were wearing typical suites
of the day, as did the women. Perhaps the women in the garden were more
scantily clothed than typical 1920’s dress, but they weren’t
portrayed as typical women either. While Maria, was wearing a very modest
almost out of date dress. Just Imagine did concentrate a lot more on fashion
that Metropolis did. However instead of coming up with a completely new
style, it still followed the trends of the day.
|12. Metropolis, Just Imagine, 2001, Outland, etc all seem to advance communication technology through the use of the video/phone devices – yet these aren’t even widely in use today. Why the fascination with this type of communication? How was it perceived to be so “futuristic”?|
the eyes of the German expressionist director Fritz Lang’s 1926
Metropolis comes an industrial futuristic vision of what the year 2026
and the devices that would be used 100 years from his point of vision.
This produced a perception in my opinion forwarding a dream of seeing
and talking to people through the visual medium of cinema reflecting that
of the video telephone within his movie. In the year 1927 one year after
the release of Metropolis the first talking movie the jazz singer was
released, there was only 5 minutes of talking dialogue within the movie
but thus become a great break through in cinematic history. Up until this
point in time the desire and hunger to produce a talking movie I believed
fueled the visual idea of the video telephone. Making this a futuristic
device not yet reachable but believable on the silver screen.
Aaron Nelson 3B
|13. Comment on the change to eating/drinking as proposed in the future of Just Imagine? The reduction of the “pleasure aspect” of these events seems to be typically decreased in most portrayals of the future? Why?|
| The change
in eating and drinking presented in just imagine represents a loss of a
very unique experience that belongs to human livelihood and sensuality.
Human beings are unique in that we have the sensation to truly enjoy food.
The protagonist Single O is brought to life by the modern scientists and
says to J-21 and RT-42 that he is hungry. A food pellet is given to him
from a public vending machine. Here we see technology replacing the experience
of eating with instant gratification. Technology distributes food at the
scale and efficiency that we encounter in modern medicine. With this idea
in Just imagine a sterile self serving society is portrayed. Single O recalls
the texture of a thick juicy porter house steak and the lush foamy head
of a pint of beer and is left dissatisfied with the replacement food pellets.
Alcohol is also distributed in the form of a pill and has an instant kick
in its distribution of the effect of alcohol. Even though alcohol is no
longer a beverage it still is served within a bottle which is also notable.
In this case the bottle is evidence of there being a need to carry the effects
of alcohol at all times in case a character is inclined to use it. Here
is evidence of a society that requires a certain dimming of the senses.
Through the condition of distributing food in the form of a pill there is evidence of technology overriding experience. Food and beverage is served from complex high tech vending machines with a full menu that seems infinite. In the process replaces restaurants and grocery stores, thus replacing cooks, waiters, waitresses, cashiers, bar tenders, and many other occupations. Society has accepted the new way of eating and overall the experience of eating is forgotten. Such is the case when looking at J-21’s reaction to Single O upon tasting the food pill for the first time. J-21 simply says to Single O ‘get used to it’.
There is evidence of one such event during Just Imagine that presents a highly ritualized drinking event a short time before Single O, j-21, and RT-42 depart for Mars. During this event a formally dressed group of men dance around with their bottle of pills in a highly choreographed scene ending with J-21 climbing on the table and all members of the gathering taking the beer pill. The event shows that there still is some evidence of gathering with drinking but the event has been reduced to a short act directed more towards the ceremony then the taste and texture of the drink. Here technology has minimized the ritual of drinking with friends to an outrageous charade of dancing and singing and disregards the taste and texture of beer.
Considering the portrayal of food and drink in Just imagine a collective disengagement of the human being with a predetermined natural process is portrayed.
|14. Give me the “good old days”… comment on the changes in procreation. Why do you think it is portrayed that way? How does this “work” with the primary plot focus on marriage for love?|
|In Just Imagine,
procreation is a mechanized commercial process. In the film, a young couple
married for just over a year feels ready to “have” a baby. They
then proceed to a vending machine and bought a baby as if it were a can
of pop. The husband asks his wife, “boy or girl?” in as casual
a manner as asking “diet or non-diet?” The whole process is
trivial, highly efficient and no act of love is involved.
This portrayal of procreation in the future epitomizes man’s technological triumph over nature. Technology seeks complete control over the lifestyle of man, including work, travel, and even eating! Compressing a whole meal into a single pill takes away human desire and leaves only animal survival needs. Technology attempts to purge all that’s unpredictable in life. A controlled and robotic system of procreation is the final and ultimate step to completely wipe out all that’s irrational.
This projection of futuristic procreation helps to set up conflict in the primary plot focus on marriage for love. Despite the “noble experiment” of having marriages arranged by the courts and complete control over procreation, the law cannot overpower the human instinct for love. The old-fashioned relationship between J-21 and LN-18 proves that love still exists. Inspired by his love for LN-18, J-21 ventures onto a dangerous journey to Mars in order to proof his worth. J-21’s triumphant return marks a victory for love. The movie seems to send a message that even in the coldest form of society, love can conquer all, just like the good old days.
O, reason not the
need! Our basest beggars
Clementine Chang -- masters
|15. What future films/productions might this film have influenced? Lost in Space? Star Trek? Comment.|
everything. There are definitely some obvious comparisons, but also many
subtle ones as well. The Fifth Element, Star Trek, Minority Report, The
Matrix, and The Planet of the Apes just to name a few. The most obvious
would be The Fifth Element, the elevated highways and tall standing buildings
are almost an exact replica. The set on the planet of Mars echoes memories
of Planet of the Apes, the vegetation, and deserts. The man that is frozen
and then reborn fifty years later is an age old story, it brings Demolition
Man to my mind. So many of the scenes or ideas in this movie have been some
how reused or borrowed in today’s modern movie productions.
There is an almost eerie comparison between Just Imagine and We, this observation is based on the scene where the woman comes to their apartment to take an inventory of citizens J-21 and J-23 (forgot the exact numbers). Memories of 1984, ‘Big brother is watching you’ come to mind. There are parts in this movie that can account for every movie that has been produced over the last seventy years of cinema. When they took off for Mars and their ‘friend’ popped up from the lower deck beneath it was somehow reminiscent of Aliens when the Alien organisms hid in the galleys of the kitchen.
This says something about the movies of our time that make hysterical projections of the future, like Minority Report for instance. To say that fifty years from now we’ll have flying cars and three hundred storey towers might actually be an exaggeration. However technology is progressively leaping decades ahead of itself, and seems as though things are accelerating at an exponential rate, Just Imagine could quite conceivably be reality in another twenty or thirty years. The meals as pills was not far off, with the amount of supplements and vitamins we have now its not that naive to think that the onset of flying cars is too far off.
There are many parallels that can be drawn from Just Imagine to several of today’s films, but it would be unjust to link it to just two or three. Would many directors or producers have actually scene this film? It’s hard to say if they were a direct influence, but the similarities between Just Imagine and today’s modern sci-fi motion pictures is uncanny. The techniques themselves are some that have been employed for decades now, most notably the scene with hovering cars; this was extremely similar to how George Lucas managed to get the X-Wing fighter planes off the ground before he had the digital technology to do so. The techniques and story line of this film have had a rippling shockwave effect in movies over the past seven decades.Mark Cichy -- masters
|16. Is the portrayal of science/the laboratory/scientific gadgets suited to a vision of 1980? What do you think inspired them?|
this movie is a rant against prohibition and the laboratory looks like
a big cave full of equipment derived from moonshine technology and art
deco lighting design.
Nancy Gibson -- masters
|17. What is the role of nature in the film? Has the environment deteriorated? Explain. Compare the portrayal of the environment in Just Imagine to Metropolis, Caligari and Golem.|
|In all four
movies, nature represents the antithesis to architecture, which is the realm
that man, the visionary, dreams up and creates. The city, embodiment of
the fantastic scale of human achievement, is threatened by the realm of
disorder and irrationality. Because of this, man seeks to conquer nature
and contain it. In Just Imagine, the scientist explains to J that Mars is
the final realm left for man to explore, as he has already succeeded in
controlling the earth, the waters, and the sky. When the crew arrives on
Mars, its landscape is wild and its people are incomprehensible; Double-O
observes its resemblance to nature on Earth, similar to his homeland fifty
years ago. Nature is the unconquered frontier, still untouched (but not
for long) by the progress and order of the modern metropolis. Seen in this
way, it is almost logical that Mars should look like any untamed forest
In Metropolis, the juxtaposition between nature and the city is stronger, because nature has actually been contained within the built environment. In the House of Sons, a utopian concept of nature has been assembled: it is Central Park, sitting amidst the skyscrapers of Manhattan. It is a fallacy that survives only through the labour of the workers in the underworld. Like these workers, nature is subjected and controlled to serve the priviledged classes. When the workers free themselves through the destruction of the machines, they also release the force of nature. The underworld becomes flooded and the conflict is suddenly obvious: the existence of Metropolis in its authoritarian state depends on the containment of nature, which is like the mob in its unpredictability.
of The Golem and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari are different from the ordered
metropolis of these futuristic visions. In their labyrinthine complexity,
these two cities are almost medieval in character. Still, they reflect
aspects of humanity against nature: the complexity of the human psyche,
an alternate realm from nature. In the Golem, nature sits directly outside
the city’s gates. The scene here contrasts sharply with the insanity
of the mob that chases the Golem within the gates: it is a place of honesty
and sensitivity. The child draws out the Golem’s emotional side,
his yearning to be accepted; through trust, the child unknowingly defeats
the Golem. In Dr. Caligari, the garden also provides relief from the gothic
city, where murderers hide in the shadows of the buildings. The garden,
an extension of the asylum, is a place of reason, where the perspective
of the plot can finally be understood.
|18. We KNOW how fraught with technical challenges space travel is. Comment on the space rocket that was invented by Z4. How does this rocket relate to current futuristic films and their portrayal of space travel (Star Wars, etc.)|
at the base of life; in fact. life can be identified with travel. Greek
philosophers were used to say that “everything flows” which
means that everything moves and evolves into a new state. There are different
sorts of travels, geografical and mental, and without doubt travel is influenced
by time. In the past there were migrations of people going from one continent
to another, as far as their technology allowed them. Then conquerors, like
Alexander the Great and the Romans, arrived as far as their knowledge took
them, reaching the ends of their world. In medioeval times, when the achievement
of spiritual life was the goal of human beings, pilgrims travelled on foot
to holy places while writers like Dante and Chaucer were writing about this
unique experience. In the XV century, Columbus headed towards a new world
and from then on places that no one could have ever conceived, the real
form of the earth itself, were definetely discovered. Once the earth was
known, human beings started looking to stars and Galileo first and Newton
then gave scientific bases to actual sky explorations. In 19th century France,
Jules Verne became famous because of his characters able to go under the
seas and up to the sky with rudimentary rockets while, with the new century,
Meliès, the inventor of cinema together with brothers Lumières,
in his first film showed a rocket hiting an eye on an animated face of the
moon. In 1930, the year of “Just imagine” production, the United
States of America were coming out of the “roaring twenties”
which had brought Prohibitionism and, in the end (1929), Depression. Oh
nostalgia of the good old days when the search for gold had reached its
climax and anybody had the opportunity to gather a little fortune of its
own.!! To escape difficulties, instead of travelling towards insanity as
they were doing in a complete different culture (Germany of Caligari and
Metropolis), players in this film with an incredible, and perhaps too superficial,
amount of fantasy and imagination travel through time, going from fifty
years before (1880) to fifty years ahead, in 1980 (has Orwell ever seen
this moction picture before writing in 1949 his novel, 1984 ?). The movie
director seems to think that by that time the moon would have been already
discovered for certain (in fact man landed on the moon in 1969 and only
some months ago a robot has sent photos back from Mars) and other undiscovered
worlds would have lain ahead. But even in the future people will be still
dealing with problems, of a different nature of those in the 30s but still
problems. And as Astolfo in Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso goes to the
moon to collect the wits of Orlando - mad because of his passion for Angelica
- (“A place wherein is wonderfully stored whatever on our earth below
we lose”) so scientist Z4, suggests, to avoid dictatorial imposure
to marriage on the leading character, to send him to Mars in his just invented
rocket in order to explore the planet and find recognition and an unexpected
and brilliant solution to his hopeless love. This started a never ending
series of films about travels through the stars, from Star trek to Star
wars, to 2001: a space Odisssey, Lost in space, etc., that deal with rockets
and space and talk of problems apparently related to other worlds, but actually
reflecting important unsettled questions of our planet and life. Mars in
“Just imagine” is considered to be the new frontier, the same
that Roosevelt with his New Deal and Kennedy 30 years later tried to reach
in different difficult moments. The idea that technology, rockets and space
are the answer to human problems is still influent. Maybe the solution is
not at all out there, but if the use of technology makes man reaching always
new frontiers that will, for certain, be at least the response to endless
human urge to knowledge expressed by Ulysses in Dante’s Comedy as
“Nati non foste a viver come bruti, ma per seguir virtute e conoscenza”
(“Ye were not form’d to live the life of brutes, but virtue
to pursue and knowledge high”).
Adriana De Angelis
|19. It is only 50 years. What happened to any memory of the past by inhabitants of the present? How did such memory disappear so quickly?|
Back to the future, ahead to the past
not desappear so easily. But it can be repressed, hidden or even altered,
infuencing our understanding of the present. Memory is present in many
aspects of the movie. Apparently in a not-so-far future, people live a
very different reality, where technical progress is leading to a “better
society” by means of simplifying everyday problems, but paying in
change the price of their private life and feelings, restricted by an
intense icy overplanning. Playing with dates, the authors seem to place
the action in the future, but in fact, we are actually looking at a portrait
of 30s, whose most peculiar aspects are sharpened by the precise excess
of “futuristic” technology and ordered organization.
|20. And what about the portrayal of Mars itself?? Place this image in terms of actual scientific knowledge about Mars in 1930. What do you feel was the motive of this portrayal of Mars?|
Way up to Mars
Soon it will be filled
With parking cars”
Satellite of Love – Lou Reed
came to tell me we just jumped into hyperspace. We’re going to reach
this planet soon. Mars.
|21. What architectural elements ground this film in 1930?|
“Just Imagine” shot in 1930, describes how life could have
been in 1980;
|22. What was the motive behind/inspiration for the Martian costume design??|
What is the role of Single Zero? How is he instrumental in connecting the
past to the proposed present? Is he effective?
|24. Connect and compare the role of the inventor/scientist in Caligari, Golem, Metropolis and Just Imagine. Why does such a character/role continue to be a central part of these films?|
|The role of
the inventor/scientist figure is crucial in elaborating one of the central
themes in each of these futuristic films. He is introduced as other than
the city folk and far removed from the mainstream ruling order of society.
In Caligari for instance he enters the stage as part of the circus. In Metropolis
his house stands in sharp contrast to the futuristic lines of the highrise,
described as being forgotten by the hands of progress it is decidedly sacral
The inventor acts a foil to the state leader and stands far removed from the concerns of the average citizen. Characterized as a wise old benevolent figure the inventor personifies a particular view of science and reveals a humanistic ambition. In Caligari for instance, the scientist is the psychiatrist. His figure brings into question the sanity of the modern condition. In ‘Golem’, the creator is a spiritual figure in possession of a sort of mystic power. In the case of ‘Metropolis’, he is the hurt lover struggling against the authority of a dictator. While in ‘Just Imagine’, he is the benevolent father figure; benign yet powerless before the tribunal. In each case, his creation is presented as a political tool to be used to over throw the stability of the state.
We are introduced to the inventor in his presentation of his animate creation to the captive audience. Characterized by his access and command of a boundless knowledge he is able to utilize it to transcend the confines of the modern city. Pushing through the frontiers of space and time, and defying mortality through his muse; he presents his work as a solution to the disharmony plaguing the group. But ultimately the experiment breaks down in some way and fails, revealing an ultimate skepticism towards un-discriminate progress.
Julia Farkas -- masters
back to 443/646 fall 2004