Silent Film Critic One Cannot Thesis

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The first scene of The Great Train Robbery takes place inside the railroad telegraph office when two masked bandits are able to force the telegraph operator stop a train that is approaching the station so that they can climb aboard. After getting the telegraph operator to lie about a water stop, the next scene finds the train at the water tower by the station where the bandits will sneak onto the train. The next scene shows the mail messenger in the mail car working before he hears a strange noise. When he looks through the door's keyhole, he sees the two bandits -- the men from the station. The messenger immediately locks the lock box that contains the valuables and throws the key out the open door as moving scenery rushes by. These first three scenes are woven together seamlessly in order to create the set-up for the movie. These scenes -- and the continuing scenes -- all occur within unbroken takes that last long enough to make story beats.

What appears different in Porter's film is that his scenes are much more photographic than other films preceding it where many filmmakers thought solely in terms of a proscenium. Though the scenes are static shots, they do not appear to be as formal as in other early films, which is most likely due to the framing of shots and the movement of the players. The parallel action that Porter utilizes is something...

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He easily moves the audience from station to train, to the bandits, back to the train without having to give the audience any further explanations. The cutting back and forth from scene to scene throughout the film showed that audiences would be able to follow a film even when scenes were juxtaposed in various places and times -- now known as crosscutting (Corrigan 38). The importance of crosscutting in this film is that it shows that a scene did not have to be played out until the very end in order for it to make sense to audiences. It shows incomplete action from cut to cut and it makes the audience infer the connections between the shots.
The Great Train Robbery used editing in an imaginative and innovative way in order to tell this story about bandits. Porter's use of matte shots (such as showing the train through the window of the railroad station at the beginning of the film) suggested something that other films of that time had not -- that there was a much bigger world outside of the studio.

Works Cited:

Auerbach, Jonathan. Body Shots: Early Cinema's Incarnations. University of California

Press; 1st edition, 2007. Print.

Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing About Film. New York: Longman, 2009.

Print.

Dirks, Tim. "The Great Train Robbery." AMC Film Site. AMC, 2010. Web. 26…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited:

Auerbach, Jonathan. Body Shots: Early Cinema's Incarnations. University of California

Press; 1st edition, 2007. Print.

Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing About Film. New York: Longman, 2009.

Print.
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