"It Happened One Night" in the "Grand Hotel"
Updated on November 26, 2007, 12:34 PM - Written by Tim Buttner
The early years of the 1930's saw an emergence of varying styles and techniques for dealing with the advent of sound. Dramas and comedies became reliant on the use of synchronized sound to picture for conveying important information, yet the techniques for conveying this information differentiated from filmmaker to filmmaker.
When Grand Hotel opens the audience is introduced to various characters from its ensemble cast, each sharing the history and present state of their character. It's done through the conversation they have on the phone with an unseen person. Comparably, in Citizen Kane and It Happened One Night, the same kind of important information is revealed through newspaper clippings or the use of montage. Citizen Kane uses the montage moreover than It Happened One Night, but together they share the use of the newspaper to get across important exposition.
Interestingly enough the introduction to a major character in Grand Hotel takes time before the audience actually sees the ballerina Grusinskaya, but a lot is revealed about her from what her maid says in the beginning. Similar to the introduction of the character Rick from Casablanca, the first time the character embodies the screen; the audience doesn't get a look at her face. She's laying in bed moaning and depressed telling her maid, "I want to be alone." Without seeing her or her face the audience has a complete understanding of who this character is and what her state of mind is, because of her body language and actions, just like when meeting Rick in Casablanca.
Despite the amazing power brought to the screen by allowing the actors to speak, filmmakers still had to show the audience about the characters as opposed to tell them. Grand Hotel does a lot of telling in its introduction of characters, but doesn't forget that film is a visual medium. The technique for showing the audience about the character lasts on past the days of silent cinema.
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