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City Girl Analysis

Powerful Essays
F.W. Murnau’s City Girl is a masterclass in creating and contrasting different worlds within a film. The film is set both in the city and the country, and Murnau expertly weaves between the settings, teaching the audience about both places in relation to the other. Once Lem and Kate make it to his parent’s farm, City Girl also creates a world within the farm for the couple, distinct from farm life. Overall, F.W. Murnau uses a restrained yet expressionistic mise-en-scene and comparison-focused editing to create a lover’s paradise separate from the reality of the struggles of the farm. F.W. Murnau uses a restrained yet boundless mise-en-scene to create a romantic space within the wheat fields for Lem and Kate’s return to the farm. Upon leaving…show more content…
This goal is often achieved through the deliberate cutting from a country-life action with its city-life equivalent. Notably, Lem’s mother cuts freshly baked bread at the table for the family. The next shot is in Kate’s diner, where an automated bread slicer makes quick work of an entire loaf. Through juxtaposing these thematically similar shots, City Girl highlights the disconnect between city living and the production of goods. In addition, Murnau cuts back and forth between Lem’s father’s scrawled math of the optimal price to sell wheat and the impersonal and cruel truth of the stock exchange. Overall these sorts of cuts tend to happen towards the beginning of the movie, before Murnau muddies the waters of the more simplistic “city-life is cold, country-life is wholesome” thesis. Once this dynamic has been established, Murnau can use editing and cinematography to compare perspectives much more subtly and within a single location, one example being their romantic scene within the wheat. The two perspectives here are Lem and Kate laughing together behind the shack, and Lem looking towards the farmhouse from the other side. Both of these shots inform one another in the same way as the bread slicer scene. Through seeing Lem and Kate we understand how close they’ve grown, and the joy that they currently share. On the…show more content…
For Kate’s city apartment, the film uses an expressionistic set design to demonstrate the artifice of city life. Her apartment is viewed flat and squarely from the side, with an emphasis of the geometry of the space. Kate’s apartment is a claustrophobic little box within the big harsh city. Through her windows, we see billboard lights and theater marquees flicker on and off with no clear pattern, showing a hectic world outside. Even if the audience can tell that the billboards look unrealistic, the set still communicates Kate’s experience of her uncomfortable environment. An elevated train rushes directly by her window, and the audience can almost hear it. Kate daydreams while staring off at a billboard advertising the Minnetonka shores: a reminder of the serenity and romance that exists outside of the city. To contrast this chaos, the mise-en-scene of the farm is oftentimes didactic and demonstrative. One notable scene is when Murnau spends several minutes carefully showing how the harvesting process realistically. As opposed to the distance from food processes in the city as seen through the automatic bread slicer, City Girl wholly immerses the audience in the detail of the wheat farm. Through inviting the audience to understand the intricacies of the process, the city folks relationship with bread seems even more distant when compared to the toil of the
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