By Frank, Alison; Stanovnik, Jelena; Thomas, Ellen
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Additional resources for Reframing reality : the aesthetics of the surrealist object in French and Czech cinema
Nous la liberté was chosen for this study because objects in the film become hybrid not only as a result of a conjunction of historical and technological factors that influenced cinema’s development; Clair’s own aesthetic choices and expressive concerns also contribute to the creation of hybrid objects. As Clair’s career spanned the transition from silent to sound cinema, his work is naturally informed by the tradition of visual storytelling; this is especially the case in À Nous la liberté, as one of his early sound films.
In order to minimise the necessity for inter-titles, it was also common to create narrative cues through close-ups of significant objects and actors’ facial expressions. While Clair’s 39 Reframing Reality choice of frame scale may have been determined to some degree by these conventions of the past, his use of long shots and closer shots also constitutes an individual directorial style that serves both thematic and narrative ends. Clair’s frequent use of long shots does, as in silent film, correspond to frequent chase scenes; however, Clair’s long shots are also determined by the immensity of the sets that could not fit inside the frame if the camera distance were smaller.
For example, the female character fixes her gaze on the male character’s accessories which she has arranged on the bed, or a death’s head moth on the wall. The stare and its object are divided, as the stare is shown in one shot, and the object of the stare in a subsequent shot. This forces the spectator to watch another character staring at something that may or may not be of obvious interest. In the case of the clothes on the bed, the woman’s stare is contemplative. In the case of the moth, the woman shows more emotion, but the way in which Buñuel and Dalí magnify the subjective power of what she sees is through literal magnification of the image (a more distant shot fades in stages to an extreme close-up); at one point the directors even use an iris to zero in on the death’s head on the moth’s abdomen.