Cinematic Ripples

         Some movies have extremely far-reaching effects on future cinematic themes and serve as an expected common knowledge reference point. This semester we have viewed at least three such films. Of these, probably the most famous are Nosferatu (Henrik Galein, 1922), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956), and Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941). These three movies have had an enormous impact on film; although they may have been popular at their time of release, they have heavily influenced later movies, especially within the same genre.

        Nosferatu is highly regarded by many as one of the first great horror movies. For anyone who considers him or herself a horror buff it is a necessity to watch. Its filming techniques would influence later horror as well as non-horror movies. Any subsequent movie about Dracula makes some reference to something in this movie. The somewhat controversial issue of Nosferatu's shadow to increase suspense is almost common practice now in horror and thriller movies. Although certain parts may now seem "campy" and overused, it was this movie that helped to make them such popular staples of the genre which then reused them so much that they seem cliché. This is one way in which it is obvious that the movie has been referenced as much as it has, all of the techniques and effects that at the time of production were revolutionary are now clichés of the genre and even others as well.

        Another movie that has had extremely far reaching influence over its genre is Invasion of the Body Snatches. It too, like Nosferatu, is regarded as one of the earliest greats of its genre. Although it now seems "corny," it is still highly referenced in movies and remains dear to those who closely follow the genre of science fiction. Many movies (and also television shows) that deal with aliens will reference either in filming or even direct dialogue Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It too has become a staple of its genre that is recognized for its influence on subsequent movies in its field.

        Citizen Kane is referenced in numerous movies in many different genres. Whether the movie referencing it is highbrow and mentions it to invoke its themes or a character says the word "Rosebud" as either satire or to draw upon the implications of the word itself, citations of Citizen Kane appear in many places. Its impact can be easily seen in the fact that anytime someone mentions "rosebud" (when not discussing flowers) it is almost immediately recognized as originating from this particular movie and having strong implications whether or not one has even seen the movie. The movie itself borrows from Nosferatu in its use of camera angles and creates a sort of cycle of ripples in movies in which angles and even meanings are passed throughout films creating an interweaving spider web of borrowing and reference.

         At the beginning of this semester I had never seen any of these three movies. I was somewhat aware that they held some sort of significance either in their genre or else ware. I knew that rosebud was important to Citizen Kane, even knew that it was his last word, but like the reporter, did not understand why. Now I can see the interconnecting links of references since I have seen them. I see the ominous use of shadow or intermediating camera angle as a result of Nosferatu. The fact that someone is like a "pod person" has new significance. "Rosebud" means the importance of loss of childhood. These all have important significance in many movies and only after seeing the center of the ripple can one truly understands what the meaning of the outer edges are. All of these issues and techniques that are now cliché and leave little significant wake were once a startling and exciting splash in their field.

Sandra Way

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