Sunday, June 07, 2015

Der Blaue Engel (Josef von Sternberg, 1930)

At a very early stage in the development of the sound film, von Sternberg's Der Blaue Engel richly deploys both so-called "off-screen" sound (for example, the music coming into the classroom from outside) and that whose source is visible. Immanuel Rath's final humiliation is represented by his crazed chicken sounds. Something that in the screenplay might, I suspect, have risked coming across as ridiculous is instead both electrifying and terrifying. Yet there was still much to learn: closing a door does not acoustically isolate a room from the room next door but in this world, it does – and the way that the film emphasises what it seems to think is remarkable verisimilitude is, for the modern viewer, profoundly distracting.

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