“The hero must leave behind her, or overcome, the weaknesses and temptations that we get into; must be totally committed to her heroic role; and must suffer dangers and agonies…even if she suffers them in a basically meaningless contest.  Furthermore, the hero must have a difficult goal, which she must reach on her own,” quoted Peter Stillman in an Introduction to Myth.

A hero’s journey as we all know is not an easy one as such in the case Chihiro in the movie Spirited Away. However, this movie is as much of an initiation story as The Wizard of Oz and Lord of the Rings is in which the main characters of each movie undergo a transformation from adolescence into childhood. There are specific plot points and characters that contribute to making Spirited Away an initiation story which will be compared with Dorothy The Wizard of Oz as well as Frodo in the Lord of the Rings.

The first important plot point births in the beginning of Spirited Away. We see Chihiro who enters into a tunnel with her parents into another world but is suddenly separated from them and finds herself alone in a strange world of spirits. This separation is similar to that of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz who is swept away from her home as well as Frodo in Lord of the Rings when he is separated from his home, family and comfort in the Shire and forced to enter into the strange Middle-Earth lands. We see then that in all fairytales, kids are separated from their parents in the midst of discovering their identity through a unique adventure. According to mythology, one has to undergo physical changes such as being physically separated from your parents to begin the change in the inner self.

In every hero’s journey, the hero faces challenges in which they have to overcome to reach their goals such as quoted by  Peter Stillman. In Spirited Away, Chiriro is challenged firstly to find a job at the bath house to free her parents and return to the human world. In order to achieve this, Chihiro is given tasks by Zeniba in which she has to complete successfully despite her weaknesses. The biggest of her tasks is to help ready a bath for a stink spirit and faces much difficulty in doing so. By succeeding it however, she is rewarded by the spirit with a medicine ball in which she uses to heal Haku later on. Likewise throughout the movie of the Lord of the Rings, we see that Frodo’s biggest trial is fighting his will to use the ring for his own pleasures and claiming it as his own. He’s rewarded later on having successfully destroying the ring and is brought to an eternal island with the other ring bearers. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy has to overcome the mighty Wizard and is rewarded later on with the help of Glinda to return back home.

Thirdly, an important plot points in Spirited Away are shown using characters such as Zeniba, Kamaji, Lin and Zeniba’s twin sister who are figures representing power and authority. Based on mythology, the archetype for women is that of a mother who gives life such as Zeniba’s twin sister who helps Chihiro discover the meaning of friendship and gives life to No Face.  As such in The Wizard of Oz, Glinda uses her power to help Dorothy in her quest of returning home. However, a witch is someone who takes this life back, taking it away from the source. We see this in Spirited Away when Zeniba the witch takes Chihiro’s name (her identity) and her parents away, giving her the authority to be over Chihiro. This is such in the case of The Wizard of Oz with the wicked witch tries to steal Dorothy’s slippers and hopes of returning back home. Helpful authority figures like Kamaji, Lin and Zeniba’s twin sister aid Chihiro in her journey such as Kamaji giving her instructions to find a job at the bath house or Lin in caring for Chihiro like a big sister and a friend. Similarly in the Lord of the Rings, Galadriel guides Frodo with words of wisdom and encouragement when he almost gives up at the stairs and gives him a gift of the star which illuminateslight for him in the darkness of the spiders cave.

The transformation of a child into adulthood is not without the aid of a mentor. In Spirited Away Haku mentors Chihiro by challenging her although she refuses initially. He aids her by bringing her to her parents in order for her to remember how they look like to be able to differentiate them from the other pigs. In Spirited Away, Haku also resembles a father-like figure and a lover who almost dies. This significant point relates with the mythological belief that going through adulthood involves learning about love and death. This is similar to Lord of the Rings in which Gandalf mentors Frodo to as far as he can and is also resembled as a father-like figure even at the start of the movie. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is aided by Glinda the Good Witch who gives her the ruby slippers and teaches Dorothy how to use the magic from the ruby slippers at the end. The presence of a mentor guides and teaches the hero of the world in which the hero is in and how they can overcome the obstacles present in that world.

Towards the end of the movie, we see that there is a change of identity in Chihiro as she picks up new skills that she didn’t have before and meets new people. This is an important plot point as through the change of one’s previous identity, the hero stops loving their old selves and changes their identity as they grow. A significant motif of the hair band is used to symbolize that she is no longer a girl but a woman. This growth is seen in both Frodo and Dorothy as individually they reached adulthood at the end of the movie. For Frodo, we see that he never looks at the Shire the same way again and knows that he cannot live in that life of carefree-ness anymore. Dorothy on the other hand, realizes that through the ruby slippers she is able to go home knowing that she’ll never ask to run away from home again.

These plot points are vital in Chihiro’s journey from adolescence to adulthood. Each hero as we’ve seen in other movies display similar stories in which they have to overcome certain obstacles and challenges such as meeting overpowering authority figures through the aid of mentors. This in the end allows the hero to reach their goal of freedom and realization of who they are as a person. Spirited Away is such a movie that weaves the story of a hero who undergoes a transformation in finding her identity. As such, I would recommend it to others to watch it to learn from the hero’s triumphs and mistakes.


                          “Alright class, you guys have to do a comparison essay comparing two different movies of your choice.” The moment I heard that uttered, I knew then immediately that my choices would be “How to train your dragon” (2010) directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois and “Tangled” (2010) by Dean Wellins and Glen Keane. “How to train your dragon” (2010) is a 3D computer-animated fantasy film by DreamWorks Animation and was loosely based on the English book of the same title. “Tangled” (2010) on the other hand is also a computer-animated musical fantasy produced however by Walt Disney Animation Studios and was the 50th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. Both immediately became movies of my choice as they are in my opinion, one of the few best animated films ever made in history. Besides that, I believe that both films depict strongly on the journey of a hero in each individuals story based on Joseph Campbell’s (1904 – 1987) theory from his book The Hero With A Thousand Faces. The focus on the hero Flynn Rider from “Tangled” (2010) and Hiccup from “How to train your dragon” (2010) as heroes on journeys are analyzed further, beginning with an analysis of the similarities between the two films followed by a breakdown on the journey of the hero adapted from Joseph Campbell’s theory.

                        These two movies are alike each other in numerous ways. The first and most blatantly obvious is that both films are made using animation and graphics. Secondly, both movies have heroes who are on a journey in which they originally did not want to accept. Thirdly, the similarity that both characters have lovers whom they don’t get till the end and are also part of the storyline. Lastly, both movies depict heroes who are males who do not have a mother in their lives, Flynn being an orphan and Hiccup having lost his mother at a tender age. These similarities however end there as both the heroes are faced with different calls and journeys in their life which will be further discussed below.

Ordinary world

In the world of “Tangled” (2010) we enter into a bright and sunny day and we see that our hero, Flynn Rider who is a thief, is on a mission to steal the golden crown from the palace. A man with a boy’s mind, he claims that it is a “big day”, a day in which if he succeeds, he can become rich and buy his own castle as he dreams to own in the future. On the other hand, the ordinary world in “How to train your dragon” (2010) is no ordinary one as the hero, Hiccup narrates. In fact, he begins by saying, “This is Berk, its 12 days north of hopeless and a few degrees south of freezing to death.” Berk is a Viking village in which Hiccup lives in and ironically calls “sturdy” when in fact, they are war-like from being constantly under attack by the “pests” – the dragons – who come to steal their food and flocks almost every night. Unlike in “Tangled’s” opening daytime scene, the scene in which we are brought in begins during the night time with Hiccup’s world begin in a state of disequilibrium where the town is fighting off the dragons. Unlike Flynn’s strong and muscular physicality, Hiccup is shown as a young teenage boy who is physically like a wimp but desires to be like his Viking villagers who fight and train to be dragon killers. Like Flynn, Hiccup too has a dream and that is becoming the first person to kill a Nightfury, a type of dragon in which no Viking has ever killed.

To counter his physical disadvantages, Hiccup has an incredibly brilliant mind that constantly invents new weapons to aid him in killing dragons. We see Flynn in “Tangled” also an intelligent young men but uses cunning ways to help him get out of sticky situations such as leaving his companions behind while being chase by the palace guards. Hiccup who genuinely cares about others is contrasted with Flynn’s obnoxious personality who is unaware that the crown he’s stealing belongs to the loss princess, Rapunzel and that there is even a loss princess only caring about having his wealth and living a luxurious life. Flynn’s world that was previously in a state of equilibrium begins to be shaken as he finds himself chased by the palace guards and is forced to escape up a tower after being hunted down by a horse named Maximus who becomes his second mentor in the latter part of the film. Flynn finds himself up Rapunzel’s tower thinking that it’s a safe place of refuge from his pursuits. Instead, while gleefully looking into the bag containing the crown he is knocked out by Rapunzel who then ties him up before he can escape. This then leads to Flynn getting the call to an adventure in helping Rapunzel discover her identity while helping him find his that changes him from a boy into a man.

Hiccup in contrast, tries to convince Gobber, the sword smith and a good friend of his fathers’, Stoick to let him outside to make his mark as a dragon killer. Gobber who’s his first mentor replies,“You leave plenty of marks, all in the wrong places!” and tells him indirectly that not every Viking is cut out to kill dragons. In addition, his father, Stoick who’s also the town’s fearless warrior leader refuses his plea to kill a dragon and does not want Hiccup to undergo the dragon-fighting training although many kids his age attend. Through this beginning, we see that Hiccup is a boy who has yet to discover his true identity, like Flynn. Again and again, Gobber and Stoick tell him to stop trying to be something that he isn’t. “Many things Hiccup, but a dragon killer isn’t one of them,” quotes Stoick. Disobedient, Hiccup goes outside anyway and launches his invention to kill the Nightfury and successfully hits the target. His journey then begins when he goes out looking for the dragon he supposedly killed.

The Call and Refusal of the call to Adventure

Up in the tower in “Tangled” (2010,) Flynn meets with his call to adventure and his first mentor that guides him in little ways throughout the journey. His mentor, a chameleon named Pascal jolts him awake to receiving his call by sticking its tongue into his ear. Rapunzel, who cleverly hid the satchel containing the crown, offers a deal with Flynn in which he has to take her to see the “floating lanterns” and bring her back safely before she returns him his satchel. Flynn off course refuses such nonsense and instead struggles to break free by physically trying to get out of the chair or trying to flirt with Rapunzel giving her his “smooch”. Many close-ups are used in this scene to show emphasis on the characters expressions such as refusal from Flynn and determination from Rapunzel and Pascal. The refusal of the call is similar with Hiccup in “How to train your dragon” (2010) who has a different call. While on his way to search the dragon he killed, he is disappointed that he has not found its body in any parts of the forest he’s been too. Almost giving up, he stumbles upon a dark and misty part of the forest in which he sees broken and torn branches hang loosely all around. The creepy and thrilling music accompanies Hiccup’s investigation in this scene and we see that Hiccup has successfully brought down the Nightfury who is tangled up in thick rope. Hiccup then takes out his knife and closes his eyes to kill him but hesitates. In that moment, Hiccup and the Nightfury look into each other’s eyes and Hiccup is called to make a choice – to kill and be like all his other Viking members, or to not kill and be different. Trying to distract himself, Hiccup tries to refuse his call by closing his eyes again in a hurry while taking huge deep breaths.

In response to their calls, both heroes react similarly by accepting their calls in the end. In “Tangled”, Flynn reluctantly agrees to take Rapunzel not before making sure that he’ll get his satchel back after he has taken her to see the lights. Rapunzel promises him firmly that she never, ever breaks her promises and is confirmed with a glare and a nod by Pascal. Hiccup on the other hand stops at the last second and instead of killing the dragon as he planned, we see him cut the bonds from the dragon loose as he is compelled with guilt from causing harm to the Nightfury. The dragon then jumps on him but like Hiccup, at the last second roars at Hiccup and turns to fly away instead of killing him. From then on, the Nightfury who’s nicknamed “Toothless” by Hiccup becomes his mentor in teaching him what the dragons truly are and helping Hiccup discover his true potential and identity.

Entering the Labyrinth: Tests, Allies, and Enemies

In “Tangled” (2010) Flynn enters the labyrinth as he enters into the jungle with Rapunzel. Having to deal with an emotional and conflicting Rapunzel, Flynn again tries to run away from the problem by pretending to bring her to a safe place to eat which is actually a bar called the “Snuggly Duckling” that filled with “bad men”. Instead, the bar men recognize Flynn as the wanted criminal and wants to turn him in but is rescued by Rapunzel. The plot point of the musical “I have a dream” in this scene is crucial as this is the beginning of change of Flynn’s character especially towards Rapunzel. In “How to train your dragon” (2010), Hiccup is allowed to train to kill dragons alongside his peers and his crush, Astrid and enters the labyrinth of the arena in which the dragons are released and the kids are trained by Gobber as they fight along. Hiccup then meets his first confusion as when he is about to be attacked by a dragon, it doesn’t stop to kill him like Toothless did. After Gobber tells him that a dragon never lets go of its prey, Hiccup then begins to investigate Toothless only to find that it is trapped in a valley as one of its tail wings are gone.

Flynn in “Tangled” (2010) meets his first test in which he has to escape the palace guards who barge into the pub in search for him. He escapes with Rapunzel in a dark cave that leads to a dam construction outside. Instead of running away, Flynn begins his first change by fighting the palace guards whilst Rapunzel swings him to safety with her hair. In the midst of the struggle, Maximus the horse breaks one of the woods that’s holding the construction together which releases a gush of water from the dam. Flynn and Rapunzel then flee into a cave only to be trapped in darkness with no way out. On the other hand, Hiccup in “How to train your dragon” (2010) receives tests after tests as he has to attend the dragon killing trainings whilst covering up that he is keeping Toothless in the forest and making a prosthetic wing for Toothless to fly again. In the process of befriending Toothless, Hiccup discovers that dragons are in fact harmless creatures, discovering weaknesses in the dragons such tickling the dragon, giving it grass to go crazy or eels to be afraid. In doing this, Hiccup successfully brings every dragon down in the arena using the methods he found that frustrates the rest of his peers especially Astrid. Through one close call, Astrid sees Hiccup walking into the forest with his flying gear making her more suspicious than ever.

The rebirth of heroes according to Joeseph Campbell is usually shown through the use of water. Although the use of water is shown in “Tangled” (2010), “How to train your dragon” (2010) shows a unique rebirth through the act of forgiveness and humility between Toothless and Hiccup. This special moment is shown when Hiccup brings some fish for Toothless who can’t hunt due to its injury. Despite its hunger, Toothlesss coughs up half of its eaten fish to share with Hiccup. This beautiful scene continues with music that is both encouraging and mysterious as we discover that Toothless is a very intelligent creature – much like the humans who can mimic expressions, draw faces and is forgiving despite what Hiccup had done in injuring it. The final moment is when Hiccup reaches to touch Toothless but Toothless refuses to submit to him. It isn’t until when Hiccup looks away that Toothless allows him to touch its face. Instead of looking at Toothless directly in the eye, Hiccup chose to look away which is a sign of humbling himself and instead saying that he is not bigger than Toothless but respects him. This sign of humility is the first step to the building of friendship and trust between the two.

“Tangled” (2010) on the other hand uses water as a symbol of rebirth for the hero. As the water level rises in the cave, Flynn who is trapped with Rapunzel admits that his real name is Eugene. This is a turning point as Flynn then enters the innermost cave of the labyrinth by confessing his real name to Rapunzel. The mentioning of his real name is like a door in which he was opening to Rapunzel and letting her see his who he really is inside. This then leads to Rapunzel confessing that her hair glows and immediately sings that help them escape the cave into the open. From this rebirth we see that like being in the cave, Flynn’s confession of his name releases him into the open and finally admits to Rapunzel his true past. He allows her to heal him physically by mending his hand and emotionally as she confesses that she prefers Eugene “much better than Flynn Rider”. The musical number of “I see the light” reflects much on Flynn’s change of character as she has brought light into his life and finally sees the light. He no longer cares about the crown and wealth but instead cares for someone other than himself which is Rapunzel.

From here on, both heroes are faced with the biggest challenge which for Flynn is to escape his death sentence and rescue Rapunzel from Mother Gothel and Hiccup in killing the “queen bee” of the dragon nest. Flynn is allied by Maximus who rescues him from prison with the help of the bar men. Other allies include Pascal who helps to trip Mother Gothel making her fall out of the window into her death. Hiccup on the other hand is allied by Astrid (who was won over previously with Toothless’ help) and the rest of his peers in fighting the fearsome dragon. Other allies include his father who finally believes in him, Gobber and the rest of the Viking villagers who try to bring down the fearsome dragon.

The Big Change and the Reward

In some ways I believe that the big change or the ordeal in Joseph Campbell’s words is somewhat the climax of the film in which the hero charges full on against his enemy in battle. The rewards are the outcomes of the hero’s actions during the big change.

In “Tangled” (2010) Flynn fights Mother Gothel in a way that’s unlike the usual charging scenes. Here, Mother Gothel pretends to be Rapunzel and lets down her hair to Flynn to draw him up, except that it is drawing him up to his death. Once entering, Mother Gothel stabs him in his side and is left to bleed to death. We see that Flynn then fights to save Rapunzel by cutting all of her hair with a broken shard of glass before she can heal him from his injury. The low-key lighting with dark shadows all around are used throughout this scene, especially right when Flynn slices of Rapunzel’s locks and Mother Gothel slowly shrivels and withers before our eyes. Flynn wins as Mother Gothel trips out of the window and down below, turning into dust along the way but looses as he takes his final breath and dies in Rapunzel’s arms. Despite this, he has rewarded Rapunzel the gift of freedom in exchange for his life, as well as being able to see her one last time while confessing his true feelings to her.

 “How to train your dragon” (2010) however uses the well-known styles of a hero charging on into battle with his ferocious enemy. “How to train your dragon” (2010) Broken by having Toothless captured by his father and making it lead them to the nest to destroy the “queen bee”, Astrid helps him remind himself who he is and he then gathers all his friends and trains them to befriend the dragons, teaching them to ride them in preparation to fight the looming monster and rescuing Toothless. Long shots are used in many parts of this scene especially when Hiccup (who’s riding on Toothless) is fighting with the dragon in the sky. We see Hiccup and Toothless make a heroic and dangerous move in saving his people and the other dragons by shooting a spark of fire in the dragons’ mouth up in the air. However on the way back down, the prosthetic of Toothless’ wing burns up and we see time slows down as the flames engulf them both before landing.

Resurrection and Return

Flynn’s journey in “Tangled” (2010) does not end in the previous scene as we see him come back to life, by Rapunzel’s tears. Brightness then fills the room again as Flynn and Rapunzel finally kiss for the first time. Likewise in “How to train your dragon” (2010) Hiccup comes back alive but with only one leg and a prosthetic supporting his other leg. This saddened moment however is uplifting as we see one of the most powerful scenes in this movie in which both Hiccup and Toothless walk side by side, supporting each other whilst showing that they are both crippled -Toothless with half of his back wing and Hiccup with one leg. Together they are shown as one, completing the other half.

In both of these movies, the heroes are changed inwardly as well as outwardly from being once boys to men. The ending of the movie “Tangled” (2010) shows the return of Flynn to the palace, only this time to bring the lost princess, Rapunzel back to meet her real parents. We see that the bar men have indeed achieved their dreams but most importantly, Flynn achieved his as well. He is shown to have given up thieving, going by the name Eugene from and marrying Rapunzel in the end. In “How to train your dragon” (2010) Hiccup who’s brought back to his village finds that dragons are now welcomed in the village. Like “Tangled” (2010), Hiccup gets the girl with Astrid kissing him and thanking him for “everything else”. The scene ends with bright high key lighting of daytime in which all 5 of his friends including Astrid and himself ride into the sky, racing each other happily.

In conclusion, both “How to train your dragon” (2010) and “Tangled” (2010) depicts a story of a hero’s journey. Although different in certain elements, the hero’s journey as Joseph Campbell writes is one that is the same in all cultures, in every life be it in the story itself (The Monomyth) or the hero itself (The Journey). I believe that such stories are important in teaching us things for our everyday life as in reality; we’re all heroes on a journey to discovering ourselves. Hence, I would recommend these two films for others to see as there is much more to learn than what has been discussed in these movies.

                 “I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain!”  When I was about 11 years old, my best friend back then went to watch the musical and came back with two souvenir’s for me. The first was a pocket calendar picturing the casts of the musical on the front (which I believe I still have) and the second, the chorus of the all-time famous “Singing in the rain” song in which its tune I’ve never forgotten till this day. I never got around to watching it although I always told myself to try and get a copy of it. I was ecstatic when I learnt that I would be viewing it as part of the Film 101 course. Finally!

The musicals back then (as I’ve come to realize) have so much more depth and meaning as compared to the musicals done these days. Each song tells of a story but in such a poetic and ingenious way of rhyming that I wonder, are good writers a dying breed? Hence, every song in this movie has an important plot point that explains either the background of the story or foretelling what is about to occur. Numbers like “Fit as a Fiddle (and ready for love)”, “Make ‘Em Laugh” and “Moses Supposes” are such important plot points with specific and dramatic functions that sew the story together.

“Fit as a Fiddle (and ready for love)” is the first musical number we see at the beginning of the film (excluding the “Singing in the rain” introduction by Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynold and Donald O’Connor) and is a crucial one. This musical number is part of a history shared between Don Lockwood and his best friend Cosmo Brown as they both struggled to survive in the entertainment industry with their yet undiscovered talents. The song that they sang and danced together interprets their boyish-ness as they are still young, inexperienced and untrained in their professions. The word “fiddle” has many meanings; one of which is to play a tune on the violin (which they are), another is to touch or move something in small quick movements and lastly, to get money by producing false records (Microsoft Word Dictionary). Basically when they are singing this song they are saying that:

  1. We’re fit and ready to be played like this violin. We’re musically gifted and talented in the performing arts and we’re ready to shine.
  2. We’re big boys now. We’re ready to have some sexuality in our lives and we’re ready for “love”.
  3. Lying is a way to get to the top. Such as in this case where Don who is now a famous movie star, lies about his entire life and even says his one motto is “dignity”.

“Dignity, always dignity” 

The costumes worn by Don and Cosmos are like one of a strolling player’s costume – cheap, bright and colourful. With happy bubbly music, we see them dancing on a stage that’s most likely to be in a bar or a cheap theatre for poor townsfolk to go to that’s found in every state and town. Even the dancing depicts a sense of boyish-ness with Cosmos walking directly behind Don, legs kicking in the air like a bunch of kids with big cheerleader smiles all the way.

Immature behaviour that we don’t see in Big-O stylo Hollywood. No one respects them as the audience jeers and mocks them after their performance. This immaturity gives a background to Don’s live as we see that until he meets Kathy, he is merely that boy dancing in a green striped costume.

“Make ‘Em Laugh”, a solo by Cosmos (Donald O’Connor) is one where he is trying to cheer Don up as well as enlighten him that movies needed a change and a new direction, one that would make the audience laugh perhaps. In the beginning of the scene we see Don getting all touchy when Cosmos repeats what Kathy told Don; “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all!” referring to the pictures in which Don is regularly casted in. Cosmos then enquires about his friend’s confusion over this unknown dame, Kathy who’s appeared to turn Don’s world upside down. To cheer him up, Cosmos starts singing and dancing beginning with the most hilarious lyrics that are by far my most favourite:

Short people have long faces

Long people have short faces

Big people have little humour and

Little people have no humour at all

Which is an irony in itself as Cosmos is what we’d consider as “little people” and yet he himself has plenty of humour. It is in this scene we see a sort of predicament of the future that when change happens, all sorts of calamities occur before it is perfected. With this, Cosmos performs this number with a clown-like character and actually making people laugh during this scene whilst causing calamity around him.

He gets carried by a log, hits the wall and makes faces, has comical dance moves and a cheeky face throughout. He plays with a human figurine pretending it to be a girl he fancies, does tumbles on the ground, runs and does backflips on the sets and even runs through the wall. At the end we see him dancing on the floor and finally ends singing “Make ‘em laugh!” and flops back to the ground.

Even the sound effects in this scene play a huge role in making it comedy-like with sounds of knocks and gears twisting. This plot point explains a change in the cinema world when ‘talking pictures’ is invented instead of the previous silent films. This turns Monument Pictures Studio upside down (just like Cosmos flipping upside down in the number!) as the main actress, Lina has a terrible voice. In a way, Cosmos is trying to tell Don not to be rigid but to loosen up and find another way to reach the audiences instead of what Don usually does.

This musical number is also one of Cosmos trying to cheer Don up from his worries of Kathy (who is also a little person that disrupts Don’s world and changes him into a man). We see all of this in Cosmos movement where in the beginning he’s rigid and stiff and slowly loosens himself till he finally let’s everything go.

Lastly, “Moses Supposes” is a number that is actually my personal favourite as its originality stands out tremendously. The song “Moses Supposes” was actually one of the only songs specifically written without the help of Arthur Freed (original composer of all the numbers in this musical, made for other musicals). This number serves as a plot point of the process of transformation as both Hollywood and Don Lockwood are transforming into different characters slowly. As the Studio learns to work around the technology of sound, the actors are required to prepare as well with diction’s and their pronunciation. Don is having no problem with this and aces all his dictions perfectly till it comes to the tongue-twisters. Here, his comical friend Cosmo enters the room and helps Don in both loosening himself and the diction coach as well as helping him get through the tongue-twisters.

Moses supposes his toes are roses

But Moses supposes erroneously

Moses he knowes his toeses aren’t roses

As Moses supposes his toeses to be.

This number is the beginning of Don’s “loosening” from the person he is. It is also like a mockery to being prim and proper, minding your “P’s” and “Q’s”. We see Don is once again trapped in a stuffy room having to sharpen his diction by an equally stuffy coach. In comes Cosmos in the nick of time to save his friend from the mundane teachings and setting him free (time and time we see Cosmos turning Don’s world upside down and helps him be free). He encourages the coach to continue on with tongue-twister after tongue-twister but is in fact making fun of him. Don immediately joins in the fun and together they become like the two boys from “Fit as a Fiddle”. They start singing a song about Moses Supposes, a tongue-twister, making it into something that hardly makes and sense but fun to say.


Gestures like throwing the book away and loosening the tie of the coach all symbolize the throwing away of old, the structured and what is expected of us and instead embracing a different way of learning. The usage of curtains as costumes and dancing on chairs and tables – things that society, especially men, do not do. They are indeed breaking out from the stuffy Hollywood world just as Hollywood and Don are both changing on the inside. The ending is epic with them singing the vowel, “A” as if to have a last laugh at the English language and its perfections.

The dancing and music in this sequence is superb as it is energetic, lively and very athletic. As a dancer myself, I believe that this dance requires plenty of stamina and control as it is a long number in which both Don and Cosmos are constantly moving about with their feet, hands and bodies. I admire them both for this number as I belief that this is a tiring dance routine but is rehearsed so well to look effortless. The amount of positions to perfect synchronously amidst vigorous dancing is certainly a task but is done so flawlessly. With such an upbeat music and rhythm that changes halfway through the song, it makes it such a unique and fun number in the midst of a stuffy boring classroom. This musical number and many others makes me want to get up my seat and join them in dance as well.

Singing in The Rain is definitely a musical one cannot forget. With its musical numbers that are needed as particular plot points, the use of song and dance to express aspects of characters or plot situations, it is no wonder it is well remembered till today. My only hope is that Hollywood would continue to create many more well-produced musicals such as this in the years to come and not let it be just a “dying breed”. As for me, I would definitely show this to my kids when I do have them in the future!

ET 6: Deconstructing Vertov

Posted: March 21, 2012 in ET Blog Essay

“The Man With a Movie Camera”. What a title. The title in itself would capture an audience of any kind simply because of how simple sounding it is; sparking an interest to the viewer of what this man with a movie camera is all about. Unlike the other movies such as “Birth of a Nation” or “The Battleship Potemkin” where both movies have a straightforward title (that these movies are related to wars or about patriotism in a country not of theirs), The Man With a Movie Camera evokes curiosity to all viewers of any age or race. It has an innocent appeal to it and leaves room for imagination for the audience to create a story behind what this movie might be of. It certainly evoked my curiosity especially when it began with a truly unique start as compared to the other movies previously viewed.

Man With a Movie Camera begins with a statement saying that the movie is an “experiment” without the help of interfiles, story and theatre. In short, Vertov is creating an “international language” by creating a movie that does not involve a scripted play with actors and in a place where most people can related to. Vertov creates an international language through the absence of a plot, narration, subtitles, and actors and is explained below.

Firstly, the absence of a plot can be seen throughout this movie. In the Man With a Movie Camera we often are shown clips that what appear to be all over the place with no storyline whatsoever. We see pictures of a little girl laughing or the movement of trains on the road and it all seems so random with no flow or order. Just a constant flow of moving pictures of the everyday Russian life. For example, the movie starts off with clips of the streets that are quiet, people who are asleep such as the women, undisturbed machinery that stays as still as a rock. As it progresses, more seemingly random images are shown repeatedly all over the place like the pictures of gears of the factory, packing cigarettes, pigeons, the homeless or cutting in and out of scenes from a factory to the streets. This creates suspense to the viewer as we’re constantly at the edge of our seats wondering, “What’s next, what’s next?” as we do not know where this movie is headed. As mentioned before, this allows the viewer to imagine the next clip that might be shown or simply infer the meanings of the clips shown through the movie. This is a clear “international language” as anyone from anywhere can form their own imagination and infer theories based on their own opinion in contrast with “Triumph of the Will” that clearly imposes someone else’s idea as your own (that is, a strong sense of patriotism to Hitler and Germany).

Secondly, the absence of a narration is avid in this movie. Not one word is said throughout this film, not one clip of an explanation of any scene. This again, allows the audience to be free in his own interpretation and does not need to be guided by anyone to know what the film is about. This makes it easy for anyone to understand and watch as those who cannot read may be able to view it without missing out in important explanations of the movie. Besides that, the mute and deaf are even able to watch this movie as again, there is no need to listen for an explanation of any scene of sort. I believe that this is a key tool used in this movie as most films are screened to fit an audience who are hearing-able as well as educated enough to read. This allows literally, people of all ages and forms to view this screening in such a simple manner. Furthermore, many movies back then were made in Germany or in America where others from different parts of the world might not understand that language. With the absence of narration, there is no need for translators or a translation that might take the viewer away from the imagery shown.

This leads me to my next point which is that this movie has created an international language through the non-appearance of subtitles. Due to this reason, many are able to understand the “language” spoken through the art of moving pictures. As this movie is made purely with pictures, one is able to decipher his/her own meaning and interpretation or form questions such as, “Why does Vertov take pictures of the train?” or “What is the meaning behind showing the lady from naked to dressed at the start of the movie? Is it to show some form of sexuality?” As mentioned before, subtitles are like a wall between the audience and the film as the constant viewing of the words shown below the screen distracts us from what is happening in the scene. If you don’t understand the language or can’t read, we miss out on what is happening. If we linger on the words too long or simply read too slowly, we miss not only the current subtitles shown but important parts of the scene and the next thing we know, it’s a whole new scene already. Man With a Movie Camera takes the hassle out and allows the viewer to just enjoy the videogrpahy and art presented without any disruptions to the flow.

Lastly, we see Vertov filming ordinary people in the midst of their ordinary lives instead of actors in this film. From the start to the end, the imagery shown of people are literally random strangers like the homeless woman sleeping, or the traffic marshal of the trains or workers at the factory. We don’t see a famous movie star or a handsome actor strutting down the street in pretense of a traffic officer. Instead, we see ordinary faces from ordinary humans beings like you and I being portrayed in the film. This brings the audience to a level where they can connect as it is as if they are seeing themselves or someone they know on the screen. It is as if someone recorded their lives and displayed for all to see. This is what happens in everyday life; no acting, no stuntman, no props, just the world as how it is. By creating such an element, the audience is able be drawn to the movie, comparing how different their lives are compared to those of the Russians and find that except for facial features, everything is done in the same way.

Why, you may ask, would Vertov do such a thing as this? Rejecting societal norms of filmmaking – narration, theatre, etc – and doing something completely different? In my opinion, I believe that Vertov did this to firstly break out of society’s norm. In order to reach a mass audience widely, in order for anyone of any race or background to be able to watch and connect this film, elements like language and writing have to be taken away. I believe that he also did this for the world to see what life really is especially in the Russian world with no actors or sets or scripts. Many more can also be reached as this movie shows plenty of middle class workers in factories, the vast majority of the population. Hence, many more people are able to related to this movie as compared to “Bringing up Baby” for example which involves the higher class, the wealthy.

In Man With a Movie Camera, Vertov’s idea and methodology and the Marxist theory of equality are strongly linked. When watching the movie, one gets the idea of that everyone is equal and the same and there is no hierarchy of importance from one person or the other. For example, the viewings of the workers at the factory are equal importance to the traffic marshal of the trains. One does not see a distinction of statuses of any sort be it in cash received or any statements projecting that the traffic marshal is of higher importance than the workers. Instead it is like a statement made that what you see in my country is what you see in yours. It raises the question in the viewers mind whether they want to see this same image in their own lives – the image of no upper class dominating the lower class but everyone is treated equal. Do we want to find joy and laughter working in these factories such as the women seem to be having? We see factory workers, common class people and the poor and homeless so often in this movie. Do we really want to be trapped in this routine, robotic life of capitalism and having to strive and work hard for nothing? The opening of Man With a Movie Camera is a clear statement of this; the world is in a state of equilibrium and everyone is happy doing their own thing without any authorities barging over their lives or threatening them. There is also a sense of equality when Vertov juxtaposes images of death and birth as the same or marriage and divorce as a balance, a part of life.

All in all, I thought that Man With a Movie Camera was one of the most well edited films watched thus far in this course and I was greatly impressed by the speed of the film and the effects that were pretty advanced for that era. This work of art is surely an international language that can be viewed by all, anytime, anywhere and whenever and can be successfully understood by many.

ET 5: Charlie and Buster

Posted: February 26, 2012 in ET Blog Essay

A comedy or a farce is a movie or a play that begins in a world of an equilibrium state and is broken by an uneven force where powers rule the world. In both “The Cure” and “The General”, the comic hero – Charlie Chaplain and Buster Keaton respectively- is a character that is fighting a “war” with the richer, more powerful antagonists and eventually disrupts the world of equilibrium state. The comic hero and the world that he’s in is changed at the end of the movie due to his heroic acts in the film.

In both “The Cure” and “The General”, Chaplain and Keaton both play comic persona’s who have different yet similar qualities. Beginning with “The Cure”, Chaplain’s facial attribute of his persona was one of a straight faced, innocent and drunken man. At the start of the movie, Chaplain’s face has barely any expression as he is mainly drunk and is unable to find his bearings to even walk straight. He appears to be blur and lost, walking around aimlessly to the wrong places even with the guide of the caretaker. When he gets trapped at the revolving doors with the antagonist – a big burly, injured man – and the caretaker, he maintains an innocent expression as he “helps” free the injured bully from the doors instead, trapping the bully’s injured foot in between the doors causing him immense pain. Chaplain appears very natural in projecting his facial expressions by causing mischief without really meaning to. This can be seen in the bath scene when he tried to avoid the masseuse various times or when he’s pouring the drink into his hat.

In addition to that, Chaplain’s facial expressions are mostly exaggerated and big when displaying emotions of surprise, shock and cheekiness. His cheeky face can be seen especially at the start when he was conversing with the lady who had a soft toy dog by pretending to feel her muscles on her arm and trying to flirt her up with his jokes.

In “The General”, Keaton portrays a persona who is constantly with a serious, dead-pan face from the beginning of the movie till the end. Throughout the movie, there are occasions in which Keaton shows expressions of surprise and shock when he bombs his own train or when he gets carried away on the cogs of the wheels of his train when he sits on it to mope.

Furthermore, Keaton showed confusion when he was rejected by the officer when enlisting to be a soldier of the army when another civilian of similar height did not. Frustration was also clearly shown on Keaton’s face when the logs he was loading on his train ended up on the opposite side of the train instead of being on top of the cargo. This was shown repeatedly as he continuously made the same mistake over and over and making ridiculous choices to pick up the logs from the other side. Keaton’s persona is also one who is blur and always seems to be unaware what is happening to him until the last minute like being caught on fire and not knowing where the source was or driving the train of without realizing that his lover was not on board with him.

In my observation, Keaton never once smiled in “The General” instead, maintaining a sad, forlorn face as he has a disappointing life not getting the job he wanted and being accused by his lover of doing something he didn’t do (not trying out to enlist as a soldier). Keaton also has some silly expressions when he gets left behind by his lover on his train or when he gets left behind by the troop of soldiers at the end and having to run after them.

In “The Cure”, Chaplain’s physical appearance and the way he copes with challenging situations differ from those of Keaton’s in “The General”. For instance, Chaplain constantly has exaggerated moves like talking huge steps in walking a zig zagged way at the beginning. Chaplain appears to be clumsy with his sloppy posture, wearing clothes that are too big for him and walking like a duck with his feet turned out – almost like an insult to ballerinas. Chaplain uses repeated actions and gestures such as when he continues to spin round and round at the revolving door or when he’s at the well pouring his drink into his hat. Besides that, he maintains a childish, carefree walk that gives the audience an impression that things around him doesn’t concern him but he’s living in his own happy, drunken world. His sudden jerky movements and actions when escaping from the caretaker or the masseuse at the bath gives an appearance of a silly drunken boy.

Interestingly, Chaplain incorporates feminity in his movements and switches back and forth in different situations. For example, mocking the bully’s words of affection to the lady or when he was undressing behind the curtain and posing for the men in the changing room. His behavior is unlike Keaton’s in “The General” who has a more boyish and manly attitude, always rough even towards his lover throwing things to her.

For Chaplain, his persona is one who constantly avoids challenging situations and conflicts. This can be clearly seen at the bath where Chaplain avoids the grasps of the masseuse by dancing and sliding away and eventually pushing him into the pool.

Based on what I’ve seen, Chaplain pushes the problem into the face of the one who first caused him the problem and makes them solve it instead.

When facing the antagonist, the bully, Chaplain does not show that he’s afraid of him despite the physical difference between Charlie and the antagonist. Chaplain instead brings him down through the bully’s vulnerable point – his injured foot – by stepping on his foot on purpose or trapping it in the door. Not only that, Chaplain mocks him by pretending to be infatuated by the “sweet” comments to the women and moving the chair around to make the bully fall. Chaplain usually doesn’t appear to have deliberate actions to counter his conflicts but somehow his actions always causes things to happen. This in turn changes the situation at the spa around to be a more hospitable place and also gets the girl.

Buster Keaton on the other hand has a more robotic, dull-like persona that shows in the way he walks or holds his body. His clothes are more neatly fit as compared to Chaplain’s from the beginning to the end of the movie whether in his plain Southern attire or in both the North and Southern uniforms. He walks like a computerized robot in the beginning, appearing to go through the motions without and emotions that are straightforward and dull. Despite his robotic stance, Keaton’s persona is one that is extremely physically active and is always running or moving about. Like Chaplain, Keaton appears clumsy as he is always falling and tripping or doing something wrong like causing loud sounds when helping his lover to escape or brandishing his sword in the air that kills the enemy instead.

Keaton uses more big actions with a sense of seriousness as he is physically involved in each scene whether pumping his cart up and down to move or climbing around his train. Lastly, unlike Chaplain, Keaton has many moments of still-ness as his persona occasionally stands still in moments like being honored as a Lieutenant or standing at the front of his lovers door, preparing himself. In “The Cure”, we never see Chaplain in a plain and stilled position but always moving about in some way with his eyes, face or body.

In “The General”, Keaton copes with his challenges with a different attitude. Instead of avoiding the situation, Keaton charges his difficulties with no fear and faces them head on. In moments of disappointment when he is rejected as a soldier, Keaton does not lose hope but continues to work on with his engine. The same goes when he gets heartbroken by his lover, Keaton remains faithful to his engine and never slacks in his job. Furthermore, Keaton is persistent and does not give up easily on the problems that he is faced with.

For instance, despite all the obstacles he faces when chasing after his train, Keaton presses on and remains as determined as ever. We never see Keaton give up even once when chasing his train or protecting his girl and his Southern state. Keaton’s persona somehow always manages to figure a way out no matter how difficult the situation might be, for example when he was burning the bridge and could not cross over to get aboard his train as the fire was spreading around him, Keaton merely took a huge chance and leaped over the flames, risking his life to land on his train. In addition, Keaton’s persona is one who is self-sacrificing. For example, he originally entered the Northerners house to find food as he was ravished form chasing his train all day. All hunger was immediately forgotten when he saw that his ex-lover was trapped in the house and chose instead to save her rather than satisfy his own desires. In the end, his efforts were paid off as he had his train, job, and his girl back.

In my opinion, Charlie’s persona appeals to me more as he is funny throughout “The Cure” and the story is less draggy. Chaplain’s facial expressions are usually naughty and mischievous that makes me laugh. His quirky personality is one I can relate too as I have a similar nature- cheekiness and all.

Furthermore, Chaplain’s persona can be pretty attractive to me especially when he smiles. I feel that the whole atmosphere changes when he smiles with his adorable look that can melts a girls heart. Keaton on the other hand did not perceive to me as a comedian and I barely laughed throughout “The General”. Although Keaton’s manliness is quite attractive as well, his innocence and silly gestures do not appear humorous unlike Chaplain’s. To add to that, I felt that the film was too draggy although it had movie like qualities and acting in it.

In conclusion, both Charlie and Keaton portray unique and different persona’s in each movie. Despite that, both comic persona’s cope with struggles that are bigger than themselves and get their girls in the end. Both are clumsy, innocent and blur yet their clumsy actions cause them achievements of praise that turns the original state of the world around causing them to be hero’s instead.

ET 1: Yourself as an audience

Posted: February 6, 2012 in ET Blog Essay

My heart sank a little at the mention of the screening of the second film.  Don’t get me wrong, I had been eager to view the two movies just that it had been a blazingly hot day and I felt the beginnings of a headache coming. It didn’t help that wafts of my Subway sandwich from beneath my desk were calling to my hungry stomach.

However as Mr., Rey went on to explain the background of Night and Fog, my ears perked up. I have always had an interest in war films or movies based on true stories. Night and Fog caught my interest immediately being a summary of the holocaust and a memorial for its 10th anniversary. I leaned forward, forgetting all my woes in that instant. I couldn’t wait for the movie to start.









The contrasting images of then and now of the campsites astounded me as they were shown at the beginning of the film. I imagined myself standing at those fields and tried to picture the sounds, the smells and the sights beholding me. As hard as I tried, I could not comprehend that very same peaceful place being used as a torture ground for innocent beings. As the narrator went on explaining the backgrounds of the camp sites, I felt the anticipation bubbling inside of me as I kept asking, what’s next, what’s next?

As the film rolled on, I felt the people’s confusion as they were being evacuated with their belongings to places unknown. I felt their fear as they boarded the train, squashed amongst others who were sick, dying and hungry. As an audience, I could sense the frustration of the people wondering, ‘What is happening to us? Why is this happening? What did I do?’ Questions ran through my head as the film showed actual footages of the people boarding the trains leading to the campsites, them as prisoners in the camps with photographs showing them toiling trough heavy labor and suffering. How did they get this footage? Why would they even make these camps for? What purpose did it serve? And most importantly, why didn’t anybody do anything to stop these people?

I felt their hope being stripped away as their clothes were taken from them and instead given uniforms and being tattooed like animals. I was haunted by their eyes, especially ones who had died staring into the screen and I tried to look away. Those eyes, round with terror and madness broke my heart as I wondered what kinds of suffering each individual went through to end up that way. I felt their pain and I could picture their life as they lived, three or four to a bed and having to sneak around to get even a tiny morsel. I had a considerable amount of knowledge about the war before this but never have I seen such horrendous images that were displayed on the screen. Bodies strewn on the ground as if they were mere pieces of rags discarded to the ground. Horrifying images of naked men and women lying dead on the ground due to starvation, sicknesses or torture. The most disturbing scene was towards the end where the narrator explained the use of the bodies – women’s hair for cloth, bodies for soap and skin for parchment – and showed disembodied corpses lying in piles. I felt like puking when I saw that they had a bucketful of men’s heads in one corner whilst their headless bodies lay nearby. Women’s hair was shaved off but some had their heads still attached. Their eyes screamed the fear, torture and confusion that they went through. I couldn’t take it. At those images I had to look away. I couldn’t stand the thought of someone’s mother, father, sibling or relative being treated in such a way with such cruelty. The worse yet was watching someone you know being stacked with logs and other corpses then clawed by a bulldozer to be buried into the ground. What disturbing images for those who were alive to see. What horror they had to endure being tortured at the camps and seeing corpses lying around like dead flies.

The question that kept running through my mind was how did the SS have the heart to carry out such cruelty to these people? Didn’t the women belonging to the SS feel anything for the people living around them? They must’ve known yet how could they still feel human after what has gone around them and feel proud about it? Throughout the film I wondered how the victims were like when they were delivered from their prison. I could imagine the bitterness and hatred in their hearts and a hurt that runs so deep, it will never be forgotten. What would I be like if I were one of those victims instead? Would I have been as strong as some were, never failing to give up? Would I have shared my food and the little that I had with others who were much of worse than I was? I might be able to say, “Yes” right now but will I still say yes after the torture and cruelty inflicted on me by other human beings?

Even as I type this, the images from the film still flash through my mind. Those pictures still haunt me even as I search for them on the web. I question how terrible one human being can be and how specific events will always haunt us for the rest of our lives. I wish that those people never had to endure such suffering. I wish that mankind all around will be convicted in their hearts of the sins they are doing even at this moment to their brothers and sisters around them. I hope that many more will not only see such films and be assured of the truth in them, but that they will get up and do something to change it.