The post-war motion picture has depicted the reality of ruined cities and desperate people, uniting viewers all over the world by applying this to the tragedy that disturbed everyone. Three films The Murders Are among Us, Rome Open City and Bicycle Thieves were presented in the same period of time. They had the common interpretations. However, these pictures vary in the unique techniques and methods of presentation that depend on the directors’ perception of the post-war reality.
Wolfgang Staudte, Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica used different camera angles, which provide the truthfulness of a screen image and help to achieve the motion picture artists to achieve the intended effect. Angles of the camera vary. They imitate different points of view in our life. Their possibilities in the image formation and development of the human character are huge.
The neutral, eye level shot has an effect of naturalness. This is because the camera is set at the level of the human eye. The vast majority of sequences, filmed with the eye-level shot, provide the neutral and common effect. However, in the specific cases, the neutral shot appears to be a strong instrument of the emotional interaction. For example, the first several sequences in the beginning of the movie Bicycle Thieves were filmed with using the eye-level shot. This shot helps to create the participation effect. A viewer perceives misery and war ruin as a personal tragedy; he or she feels empathy towards Ricci’s family. The director’s intention to emotionalize the viewer is connected with the compassion that could be experienced towards friends and neighborhood families, whose lives had been ruined by the post-war misery.
The neutral angles in the motion picture The Murders Are among Us imitate the eye-level of a watcher. The audience experiences some interest instead of compassion. The beginning of the film is focused on the moment, when an unknown soldier returns from the war. Step by step, the viewer gets accustomed with his life and character.
The eye-level shot in the sequences of “Rome Open City provides not only a simple participation effect; it shares the heroic mood and lifts the spirit. Rome Open City differs from the former ones, as it faces the period of occupation rather than the post-war period. Therefore, the eye-level shot helps the viewer to enter the spirit of things.
Nevertheless, the majority of sequences filmed with eye-level shots minimize camera effects in order to help the viewer focusing on the actors’ play. Meanwhile, other camera angles provide the additional effect. On the one hand, the low-angle shot imitates the greatness of objects in the focus, underlining the meaningfulness and superiority. On the other hand, the high-level shot diminishes perceived objects, raising the viewer among the objects.
For example, the scene, in which Dr. Mertens operates on a young girl, was followed by the low angle shot, imitating the patient’s point of view. In this case, the superiority of the doctor is underlined according to his authority and importance. The necessity of high angle shots, used in the movies The Murders Are among Us, Rome Open City and Bicycle Thieves connected with the scenes filmed from stairs, appears in all three films.
However, the scenes, where Nazis arrive to arrest Francesco were filmed from above, using the high-angle shot. Despite the fact that these sequences have imitated the view from the balcony, the usage of these shots brought an additional effect. It added the impression of mighty and powerfulness of the army marching to the house. However, the tools used in this scene were not limited by the high-level shot. The bird’s-eye shot brought the effect of a turning point. Moreover, this shot imitated the hero’s point of view from above. Long shots, used in the movies The Murders Are among Us and Bicycle Thieves show the post-war views with ruins emphasizing the dramatic effect.
The Dutch or slanted angle shot brings the impression of instability and distortion of a certain picture. For example, the cancan show, performed in the end of The Murders Are among Us was filmed with the slanted angle shot. The main reason for using this shot was creating the atmosphere of the party and distorted perception of people. The protagonist felt disfavor towards the murder. This was partying and celebrating his wealth, escaping from justice. Dr. Mertens was depressed by this celebration. Therefore, the camera angle imitates his feelings, playing an additional role of a subjective shot.
The motion picture The Murders Are among Us begins with the slanted shot sequences. The slanted angle appears between neutral scenes, emphasizing the effect of curiosity and examining the protagonist.
The operator uses the slanted shot in the motion picture Bicycle Thieves, when Antonio rides a bicycle with his son. In this scene, a father and a son are happy for the first and last time in this movie. These sequences share joy and cheerfulness with the viewer.
Values and the depth of the artistic recreation in extensive fragments of reality are often emphasized by a camera movement and a technique. The dynamic of sequences in the motion picture arises in the process of moving the camera. Along with the physical and technical parameters, the space depiction plays an important role in creating the intra-art: pan, zoom, montage and mise-en-scene, the interaction of light and shadow as well as color.
Pan is a widely used camera-movement shot. It imitates the interested viewers’ look. In contrary to the constant long-shot look, panning involves the process of turning around while dramatically enlightening the surrounding atmosphere. However, there are different types of panning being varied according to the director’s intention.
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For example, the general pan shot in Bicycle Thieves, Rome Open City and The Murders among Us is widely used to show various landscapes and post-war ruins. This type of panning as well as the neutral angle shot helps to analyze the surrounding environment, houses and streets. For example, in Bicycle Thieves, the general panning is an important part of Antonio’s search. De Sica involves the audience in the process of detection. The viewer feels the compassion towards Ricci’s family. Apparently, the viewer tries to help them to find a criminal. Therefore, panning shows a general picture of the surrounding.
However, Rome Open City and The Murders among Us contain a far few amount of sequences with the general panning. Staudte (1946) has concentrated on domestic scenes, i.e. the protagonist and his beloved woman living in the same building. The antagonist meets Hans in his apartment. Therefore, there are many landscapes to depict. There is the scene, where Dr. Martens and Susanne walk near the ruined city landscapes. However, the director decides to use the immovable camera with the long shot.
Despite the fact, that Staudte (1946) has filmed the majority of crucial sequences, such as a final scene with Brückner’s speech and Susanne’s love expression, were filmed with the fixed camera, though domestic scenes and the scenes filmed in apartments were made with the use of various shots.
For example, the combination of a dolly and tracking shot being based on a mechanical movement of the camera, rotating around the axis and rolling behind, was used in the following scene. There, Dr. Martens appeared at Brückner’s house. The tilt shot camera movement was used, when the hero was drinking tea; meantime, the camera was moving upwards.
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However, the pan shot can provide another type of expressive facilities. Accompanying and following the character’s movement, the camera focuses on the character. For example, such are the sequences, where Nazi soldiers check streets during the curfew time in Rome Open City. Rossellini (1945) has used the panning in Rome Open City to depict dynamics in the scene, where children play football with a priest. The tracking shot was used in the sequences, where Gestapo authority walked with a police officer, and the camera was moving along.
Rossellini (1945) has used the zoom shot in the scene, where Pina was sitting with her fiancé. She was devastated by the war, sharing her thoughts and memories. The shot focused the viewer’s attention on Pina’s and her fiancé’s emotions.
Attracting the viewer’s attention to Dr. Matern’s face, the director used a close up method. When Hans decided to kill the antagonist he came to his factory, where Brückner had addressed to his workers with a speech. His face appeared behind the glass among numerous faces. Therefore, the close up helped to orient the audience to look at the protagonist.
The final part of Bicycle Thieves contains a lot of sequences with the tracking shot. De Sica (1946) has used the tracking shot, the filming desperation of Antonio walking from side to side. When he decided to steal a bicycle, the camera also was moving with him, imitating the co-working with the audience. When Bruno noticed that his father had stolen the bicycle, the tracking shot emphasized some emotions and shock on his face.
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The director has used the dolly shot in the sequences with Bruno’s raising his father’s hat. He was symbolically raising his dignity, because the moment when Antonio committed the crime was humiliating and disappointing for Bruno. His emotions and his look were emphasized by a rolling away camera. The same movement was used in the final scene, when Antonio walked with his crying son.
However, the camera angle and movement cannot create the accomplished atmosphere and affect the viewer, unless the proper illumination and focus are being used. The important artistic technique of the space creation depends on the balance and proportion of intra-light and shadow. Therefore, the light determines the quality of a motion picture. This is because the effect of shooting is based on the instantaneously overexposed film.
But like all technical properties of the filming process, the intensity of light is an important element of the aesthetic effect. It gives some information about the shape, volume and texture of objects as well as their location in space. It also characterizes the atmosphere of the action, realizes the intention of the director and helps to perceive the motion picture in terms of the director’s representation.
Filming shadows instead of the heroes in Rome Open City, the director has emphasized secrecy and a mystery; however, these sequences also contain the voice over shot. Backlighting is used in Bicycle Thieves during chasing a thief. Antonio and his supporters in the car as well as the majority of pedestrians are not seen, being in the front side of the picture. The back illumination prevents enlightening of the front side, leaving silhouettes instead of faces.
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De Sica prefers the natural illumination showing Rome, its streets and citizens in the daylight. However, he has managed to use different styles of illumination. The domination of high-key lighting, dull shades, natural light and shadow contrast adds to the unique naturalness of the movie, creating an impression of summertime colors. It breaks through the black and white motion picture.
Unlike the movie Bicycle Thieves, Murders Are among Us was made with exceptional regularity of the low-key lighting. The artificial light used in this motion picture in combination with a dark background has created a tense atmosphere.
The sequences, in which Giorgio met Pina’s sister at her apartment, were filmed with the low-key lighting, shading his face. When the girl starts to explain, why the man has decided to accompany her, Giorgio turns around and walks upstairs, without entering the light sector and without showing his face.
The low-key lighting is a feature of the movie Rome Open City. The scene, where several boys are running home, hearing the shots is too dark to differentiate anything, except of their silhouettes. However, the combination of darkness in the front and flashes in the background creates an extremely dramatic effect.
Several sequences, where Dr. Martens appears during Brückner’s speech, are filled with the so-called Rembrandt lighting. The final scene in The Murders Are among Us contains a dialogue. Brückner takes part in a conversation with Doctor Marten’s shadow, during which Staudte uses the voice over. Han’s voice is heard from behind the scene; therefore, the onlooker pays attention to the protagonist’s emotions, looking at Hans’s silhouette and perceiving it as the superior authority.
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Focusing is an important tool that helps to orient the viewer of the size and placement of objects in accordance with the apparent changes in their size, shape and clarity caused by the location in space and the degree of remoteness from the viewer. Therefore, the focus gives the audience the orientation meaningfulness of actors and subjects in the screen.
Showing both characters in one scene, Staudte (1946) has focused on Dr. Martens standing behind Susanne. However, when Hans talks about Susanne’s emotions, mentioning that she has forgotten to smile, the director uses a rack focus. It makes Susanne’s face and emotions clear.
The shallow focus could be noticed in the motion picture Bicycle Thieves. The majority of sequences were filmed with the zoom shot, such as conversations between a father and a son, during the scene, where they are dinning at the restaurant. However, the director has used a deep focus during sequences with the long shot and panning, when the father and the son have gone to a certain distance from the camera.
Rossellini (1945), in contrast, has used the deep focus, filming the vast majority of sequences. Almost all objects in Rome Open City are clear and sharp-cut. Rossellini has focused on the picture, in the whole, instead of its separated elements or characters. This cohesiveness of representation raises the issue of an important category in a motion picture analysis, i.e. the montage and mise-en-scene.
Mise-en-scene refers to the unity of descriptive methods in the motion picture art and following processes of their combination in the accomplished film. Montage, in contrary, refers to the process of creating the film from separate sequences. They were not mixed during the process of filming. Therefore, mise-en-scene contains long scenes that transmit an accomplished picture, a message from the director, actors and decorations merged together in the spotlight as on the theatre stage.
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For example, Rossellini’s (1945) mise-en-scene is a combination of actors, their feelings, a tragedy of situations, a fast-moving camera, long shots and a close up, dull shades and daylight. However, Staudte’s montage represents the process of defragment. Each sequence shows the flash of emotions, a spontaneous movement and a crucial moment. Actors’ faces are illuminated with tears and emotions brightly seen on the screen. The camera stays immobile, light and with a shade focus; it is oriented at the onlooker.
De Sica’s motion picture Bicycle Thieves contains the fusion of both styles. For example, the scene, where Antonio runs to his son, whereas Bruno puts his pants on, has been played by the actors as the separate sequences. However, it has been filmed from both sides as the continued entire scene.
Moreover, the scene in the church was played as the theatric performance, whereas the beginning of the film, where Maria Ricci sales her bed sheets, consists of separate sequences put together as the montage. However, the protagonist’s character appears too inexpressive for the mise-en-scene style. Nevertheless, it is the certain aesthetic method, whereas the bright natural illumination is not widely used in the montage. Therefore, Bicycle Thieves is the unique fusion of several aesthetic elements.
To sum up, it should be mentioned that the combination of sequences of long, neutral, high and low shots, zoom, slanted and pan shots helps to recreate the on-screen expressive art space and carry through the installation of phrases a semantic story line. Moreover, the unity of camera movements and techniques helps to orient the viewer on the most important parts of the picture, paying the attention to small elements and diminishing large ones, though neglecting objects.
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The uniqueness of the characters’ perception could be imitated by using the slanted and subjective shots. Moreover, the illumination is one of the most important aspects of the aesthetic influence. Enlightening the background, the director can leave the character unnoticed or covered under the mystery; whereas bringing him into the light, the director uncovers his face, character and emotions.
Focusing on different elements, he orients the audience on the important things on the screen, sharing his personal perception. However, the scenes focus on the whole performance containing the sequences, the majority of which are the unity, line Rossellini’s Rome Open City filmed as the mise-en-scene. Nevertheless, the motion picture that contains the separate sequences, connected into one single scene, is mainly filmed as the montage. Moreover, movies that formed in different styles, such as Bicycle Thieves, contain some elements of both types of filming.
The three films mentioned before The Murders among Us, Rome Open City and Bicycle Thieves are the unique representations of the post-war cinematography. Despite the fact that directors and camera operators in the middle of the 20th century were not able to use modern technologies, the professional knowledge about the potential of the motion picture has helped them to create the masterpieces of the world cinematography.