Being John Malkovich
The first film that is going to be analyzed in this paper is Being John Malkovich. This is a fantasy comedy directed in 1999 by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman. The plot of the film is totally absurd and surrealistic. The main character of the film is Clerk Shwartz, an unemployed puppeteer who is married with Lotte, a woman obsessed by her pets. Shwartz finds a job in an office, which is located between the 7th and the 8th floor. He makes acquaintance with a woman called Maxine and gets into sexual intercourse with her. Later, he finds a door into the head of an actor, John Malkovich. Together with Maxine, he starts a business, based on selling the entrance into John Malkovich’s head.
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Maxine, a psychopathic and manipulating woman, is very attractive to Shwartz. At the same time, Schwartz’s wife, Lotte, gets into Malkovich and has sex with Maxine. She realizes that she loves her, too, and both women abandon Shwartz. One day Malkovich follows Maxine and finds the portal into his own head. This is the most absurd scene of the film, as all the people turn into John Malkovich and all they say is “Malkovich”.
Lotte finds out that Dr. Lester is actually not himself, but a captain from the 1800s who found the portal into another body and is going to inhabit Malkovich. He can obtain the body on the 44th birthday of the victim, who is, in his case, John Malkovich. He is going to obtain the new body together with a group of his old friends.
The puppet skills of Shwartz allow him to take control over Malkovich, and he inhabits his body for a long time. In the end, the group of old people led by Dr. Lester obtain Malkovich’s body, Lotte and Maxine live together, and Shwartz is doomed to helplessly watch their life from their daughter’s body. Thus, Being John Malkovich is a comedy based on a twisted plot and totally unpredictable scenes.
The film Casablanca tells the story of love in the city of Casablanca during the Second World War. An egoistic and cynical American expatriate called Rick runs the café. One day his beloved woman, Ilsa, who left him, visits the café together with her husband. Throughout the film, it turns out that Rick is a noble man and he helps Ilsa to leave Casablanca together with her husband.
One of the most powerful scenes from this film is the one where the orchestra in the café starts to play Marseillese while the Nazi officers are listening to some German songs. All the visitors to the café stand up and start to sing. There is a contrast between the way the German officers and other café visitors are depicted. The officers are filmed in a way that the spectator does not really notice their faces. Their bodies take all the frame height and are shot from the bottom upwards, which creates the effect of power and danger. On the contrary, the visitors singing the French anthem are shot in close-up. The spectator clearly sees their faces and emotions, for example, they can see an exotic singer crying, or Mr. Lazlo in close-up singing the anthem and full of patriotism. Visitors of all kinds unite in this act of protest against the Nazi invaders. These are men and women, rich and poor, black and white. They are shot in a way that one can see that there are many more of them than the German officers. Their bodies take up approximately two-thirds of the screen, and this allows presenting them as parts of the unity. Thus, the scene depicts the patriotism and the willingness of people to win in the war that ruined their lives.
Curtiz, Michael. Casablanca. Warner Bros., 1942.
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Jonze, Spike. Being John Malkovich. USA Films, 1999.