Name Professor Visual Arts & Film Studies 2 Dec 2011 Film Review: The Stranger If there’s one film which became a box office hit in the 1940s and is still considered a classic film up to the present, it is Orson Welles’ 3rd directorial task entitled The Stranger…
Classic film noir was developed during and after World War II, taking advantage of the post-war ambience of anxiety, pessimism, and suspicion (Film Noir). The plot of the film follows the pattern usually set for the noir type, that is, the presence of a disillusioned male character and a femme fatale who leads him to his eventual destruction. The lead character is Franz Kindler, played by Welles, who is a Nazi organizer and leader who is supposedly the brains behind the Nazi torture camps. Kindler has gone incognito in a quiet town in New England, and is now a professor at the university. He has also changed his name to Charles Rankin, and nobody knows about his dark past. To make this disguise more legitimate, he has agreed to wed Mary, the daughter of the town’s Supreme Court justice. Unfortunately Wilson knows that Rankin/Kindler is in hiding, so they allow Meinike, Rankin/Kindler’s subordinate, to escape from prison to lead the trail towards the latter’s ultimate capture. Eventually, Rankin/Kindler’s identity is revealed and the chase between Wilson and Rankin/Kindler leads up to the climax at the clock tower where a tragedy gets to be witnessed by the whole town. The classic film noir tone pervades entirety of the movie. Apart from the black-and-white motif of the film, the majority of the scenes being serious, the characters conversing about humorless topics, there is a general atmosphere of gloom and apprehension that can be felt while watching the film. The crime and drama genre of the movie, plus the suspenseful scenes while Wilson was chasing Rankin/Kindler, also added to the mounting tension and apprehension on the part of the viewer. And then again, Rankin/Kindler’s link to the Nazis and his being a truly violent man behind that innocent face also increases the anticipation in the film. There, at the back of one’s mind are the questions that lurk: “How will this film end? How will Rankin kill them? Or will he be the one killed? What will triumph – good or evil?” among others. After all, it was only in the later part of the film that Rankin shows his true personality to his wife Mary when he was surprised that she was still alive after he planned her death at the clock tower. It is worth mentioning that the frequent reference to the clock and time are symbolic of the remaining amount of time that the lead character had, and that his evil ways would soon be over. This is further emphasized by the way that Rankin was pierced on his abdomen by the angel’s statue on the clock tower while it was revolving around its usual path about the clock tower. The implication is that good still prevails. For a 1946 film, it could be said that Welles did a great job with the mise-en-scene for the major part of the film. There were a variety of frames and shots captured, and it could be said that the composition was balanced for most of the sequences. Welles used wide shots, mid-shots, close-up shots, some cut-ins and cutaway shots too. They were mostly of eye-level angle, although there were also some of low level, high level and bird’s eye view camera shots, like the time the angel’s statue fell from the tower. As Steve-O writes in Noir of the Week, “The editing during the clock sequence is just amazing.” (The Stranger, (1946)) As is typical of classic film noir, the lighting for most of the scenes was good, except for those which were ominous and involved some evil schemes concerning the lead character. Since there ...
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