The experienced doorman at the Atlantic Hotel is quite proud of his position, his responsibilities, and his uniform. One busy, rainy night, he has to take a short rest after lugging a heavy suitcase in from the rain. Unfortunately, his manager comes by during the short time when he is not performing his duties. The next day, when the doorman arrives for work, he learns that he has been replaced as doorman, and has been re-assigned to the less strenuous but purely menial position of washroom attendant. Stunned and humiliated, the old man struggles to carry on with his life. Written by
The first "dolly" (a device that allows a camera to move during a shot) was created for this film. According to Edgar G. Ulmer, who worked on the film, the idea to make the first dolly came from the desire to focus on Emil Jannings' face during the first shot of the movie, as he moved through the hotel. They obviously didn't know how to make a dolly technically, so they created the first one out of a baby's carriage. They then pulled the carriage on a sort of railway that was built on the studio. See more »
When the porter loads the trunk on his back in the rain, the rain isn't falling on it. Once he takes a couple of steps, it is. See more »
The camera work and the sets in this film where so breathtaking and powerful that they changed the film language forever. It is in many ways the Citizen Kane of its time.
It was so revolutionary that Hollywood (Fox) tried desperately to get Murnau to work for them and teach them how to do all these things (which he did some years later). The main revolutionary thing was the fluidity of the camera (or the unchanged camera, as it was called). There was no steady cam at this time, but still they managed to strap the camera to the body of the cameraman without getting a shaky pictures.
The set is just amazing. It is difficult to believe that this is not a real city. All the special effects help also to make this believable (special effects that are still today astonishing and believable).
The makeup is also great. Emil Jannings was only 40 years old when he made this film but he really looks like an old man (and acts like one too).
But the greatest thing about this film is how much Murnau manages to say with out the help of inter titles. This is visual storytelling at it's best.
Murnau had come a long way from Nosferatu but he still had a long way to go and a lot to teach us before his untimely death. The Last Laugh is not only one of his best films, it is also most likely his most important one, and one of the most important films in film history.
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