Filmmaking Techniques in Films Casablanca and The Grand Budapest Hotel

In this paper I will discuss how different camera angles, lightning, music and other filmmaking techniques affect representation of the characters and our sense of the scenes in two different movies. The similarities of those effects on the main characters will be discussed as well as differences in both movies. I will try to prove that the same ideas in two films could be achieved while depicting them in the different ways.

Firstly we will take a look at the scene from Casablanca when Rick meets Ilsa for the first time at Rick's. When Rick is entering the main hall he walks very slowly as he is checking his subordinates. However when he noticed the music playing he starts to walk at a higher speed and look on his face changes drastically that suggests that he is worried about this. Therefore with the use of such narration in this movie even without having any sound or any camera movement we can almost exactly feel what the story is trying to tell. Also as Rick comes closer to the piano at first the camera is a at medium shot so that we can see others in the room, but when he notices Ilsa the camera moves to a close-up shot which represents the importance of the unexpected meeting. Moreover Michael Curtis (director) with the use of non-diegetic sound effect makes us feel as if their meeting is the most important action in the whole Casablanca. This scene is an example of the very important meeting which is achieved with the use of various filmmaking techniques.

The scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel, the diner of the Author and Zero is also a very important scene. When Author talks to monsieur Jean at the Hotel, he tells him who the owner of the hotel is. As they have a conversation about Zero, the Author is also a non-diegetic narrator of the story and they all simultaneously agree on the idea that Zero is the main figure at the moment. Therefore precedent scenes make the scene at the diner important to us as viewers. Use of a master shot from which we can see that all the tables at the restaurant are placed in equal rows, except for the one where the main characters are sitting proves even more that they are special guests. While they are sitting at the table the camera is mostly focused on depicting faces of Zero and the author, but it is not constant as it makes zooms from and to a close-up shot. The most interesting zoom is the last one as on the background the lighting changes smoothly that starts a beginning of a new story. The both scenes in my opinion have the same idea as they try to add importance to the narrative at a certain time. However achievement of this ideas are different in some ways. In the Grand Budapest Hotel there is a precedent talk and shots of monsieur Zero that make us feel that the meeting is something serious. While in Casablanca the sound effects do this work. Still in both scenes close-ups are used as they create a special focus on either look of a character or what they are going to tell.

The next scene from Casablanca is interrogation of Ilsa and Laszlo with the police. The scene lacks various camera angles changes or any movement. However in this scene both Renault and Strasser are shot from the back so that we can not see their faces. At the same time Ilsa and Laszlo are facing the camera and their faces can be seen by the viewers. Such use of a medium shot is probably meant to represent that Ilsa and Laszlo are weak characters in the scene as they are too open for the other characters in the room. Moreover this idea is proved with the fact that Ilsa and her husband are sitting in the middle of the table precisely between two policemen. That represents that they are locked and put in frame. Also when we are given close-up shots in this scene it is clear to see that both policeman are strong and confident while having this conversation. It is depicted in narration in a such way that they look right in the eyes or face. While Laszlo and Ilsa have running eyes and they can not look straight at the policemen. Such narration of the story proves that both characters in the middle have either fear or hiding something.

The scene in the Grand Budapest Hotel where Zero and Gustave are getting a visit by the police has many similarities with the one from Casablanca. Similarly Gustave and Zero are placed in the middle between 4 policemen that are not facing the camera directly. Moreover in this scene non-diegetic sound is used well, as it creates a feeling of an upcoming danger which is depicted in the face of the police. Even though the scenes look similar there is also differences in them. Zero and Gustave do not look scared or worried with the fact that Gustave is accused with murder they seem to be rather surprised or shocked. It is probably build on the idea that the movie has more comedy included in the narrative, as the characters wear purple costumes while nazis have classic grey uniform which represents their power and unity as they are wearing the same. Also when leaving the room Ilsa looks scared as she tries to leave the room faster while it is hardly noticed in Casablanca, in the Grand Budapest Gustave is simply running which directly represents his will to leave the police. Such similarities make the scenes look almost identical, except for some details that different directors include as their personal ideas.

The ideas of Wes Anderson and Michael Curtis could be identical in the scenes discussed before, but the way they are achieved are different. Even though they have some similarities, filmmaking techniques are used in the individual way with accordance to the directors' own visualization. In the similar scene where Curtiz did not use sound effects it was done but Anderson and vice versa. However at some point they use the same close-up technique at the moments when a greater focus on a specific character is taking place. It is obvious that the narrative structure of the movies is different as Casablanca is a drama based on a love story, while the Grand Budapest Hotel is a story about adventures of two friends. Nevertheless if we take a look at specific scenes we can see how they are connected with use of filmmaking techniques. 

07 July 2022
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