F.W. Murnau is considered one of the most innovative directors of the silent era. During his short career before his death in a road accident, he highly introduced the subjective point of view camera through his developed directional and technique skills in early period. Murnau’s technical mastery of describing his characters makes his films exciting to see. When people think Murnau, the most two famous films that ultimately come up in their minds are: Nosferatu (1921) and Sunrise (1927). But in between of those films, he made a well known masterpiece called “Der Letzte Mann” or “The Last Man” (Which was renamed “The Last Laugh” in America), because the name “The Last Man” was already taken.
“Der Letzete Mann” or “The Last Laugh” was written by Carl Mayer and was produced by a German film, Kammerspielfilm. The film is a narrative story with the central character is an old porter and his differential evolved performing in complex situations. Through the film, Murnau created phantasmagoric visions that defined and emphasized his character: he was who he was because of what surround him.
The very first scene of the film was begun with the portrayed descending of the camera toward the hotel lobby with the association of a harmony combinational tons of violin, piano, and flute. The rotational door opened as an introduction of the film. An image of an old elegant porter appeared inside a raincoat in front of a luxury hotel: Atlantic. He was busy working in a bad weather, but he looked confident and full of himself as he’s whistling for cabs and saluting arriving customers in the torrential raining night. However, the burden of aging doesn’t seem to pardon anyone. As the time can’t be stopped, he was getting older as well as losing his strength. Because of being fond of his job, he didn’t accept a fact of being decrepitude. He put himself into a risking sogginess to carry the customers’ heavy luggage. It’s his responsibility as a porter of a fancy hotel. After it stopped raining, he took off his raincoat and disclosed his doorman uniform. In that short moment, the camera cinematographed his standing posture directly from a low angle to a higher position that created an illusion affecting watchers’ consciousness about his image. His body became taller and wider. His face surrounded by a beard and whiskers that frame its cherubic pomp. His image became more dazzle and splendor with the associational affection of the hotel light behind his back. At that moment, he created an image of a very respectful old man with a power to control the situation even a bad one on the street in front of the hotel. In the territory, he acted like a king expressing through his solemn motion that attracted two young ladies – one clinging to each arm. His doorman coat looked just like a royal robe: a glittering gem of thread and button. The coat was so special and made him looked different to people around. The coat was used to express his prestige and rank that distinguished and earn other’s admiration.
However, as the camera jumped out and took a shot of his whole body with the same angle of eye level, his body failed him. His overweight body exposed a ridiculous object inside a luxurious coat. His movements looked unnatural and strained with his militarily walking and greeting gestures. His body’s aspect gave a doubtful expression about his real social status. His body belonged to low class. Therefore, his solemn motion and his luxurious coat were a channel for him to except his real status and try to act as a high class. Although only a humble doorman, he nevertheless enjoyed a position of prestige and respect, much of it associated with the dientele he works with at an important hotel, but it also had a lot to do with the very smart uniform he wore as the chief porter. He didn’t take his position lightly, and perhaps even considers himself more important than he really was.
He might be playing an important role...