Saturday, November 2, 2013

Wings (1927): Brief Film Analysis

Director William A. Wellman’s Wings (1927) is a World War I epic staring Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen as they play aviators in the war. Jack (Rogers) and David (Arlen) become best friends during their time at war, and they fly in many battles and dog fights. 

Besides the action, both Jack and David have girls that love them. The twist here though is that Jack loves the girl that loves David (and David knows this) and Jack doesn’t even notice Mary (Clara Bow), “the girl next door,” that loves him. 

One obvious theme that shows itself immediately is the idea of “the girl next door.” While Jack is working on his car, Mary pokes her head over the fence to see the man she loves. The problem is that Jack only sees her as a friend. Mary helps him fix up his car, and then Jack drives off to see the city girl, Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston), David’s love.

Throughout the movie Mary is continuing to pursue Jack, but Jack is oblivious. The theme to take away is how men are always more into their toys, like cars and such, than they are into women. Jack is so oblivious it is painful to watch, and Mary continues to go after him, which is even more painful to watch.

The other theme worth mentioning is revenge. Jack really wants revenge against the German’s because he believes that David has been killed. But David is still alive behind enemy lines.

After David steals a German plane, Jack sees it heading for American lines. In an almost psychotic act of revenge, Jack shoots down the plane piloted by David, and he later dies.

It is very ironic because the act of violence he thought was avenging David’s death only killed him. Revenge is shown as a bad thing that results in more pain.

I personally loved the character of David so much more than Jack. By the end of the film I despised Jack. David was the nicest guy and a great friend with a wonderful girl and set of parents. And Jack was this stupid, oblivious, glory hog.

Also, Jack wasn't just oblivious with Mary, but in some of the dog fights. He was the reason David was shot down in the second dog fight of the movie, and he killed David at the end. The movie was so great, but I hated Jack.

The dog fights were so intense. There was such a variety of shots and camera angles combined with the quit editing that made the air battles astounding. The extreme long shots were my favorite because the audience is able to get a true feel of the vast space in the air.

The other thing that I found amazing was the drawn-in fire. When a plane would get hit, they would produce black smoke and spiral downward. But they would also appear to catch on fire. Frame by frame the fire was drawn in to create the appearance of the planes actually engulfed in flames.

The expressionistic camera work comes in a bar (or night club) in Paris.

Mary is looking for Jack only to find him excessively drunk. Jack is seeing bubbles and he can’t focus, and the director shows his drunkenness through the method of symbolic and expressionistic camera tricks.

Jack, for one thing, is seeing bubbles coming out of everything: drinks, band instruments, even Mary’s dress and eyes. Obviously, bubbles aren’t coming out of anything, but it is a way to symbolize how drunk he is. Also, the use of blurring the camera when Jack looks at Mary tells the audience that Jack is so messed up that he can’t even notice a girl he has known forever.

The scene is mainly expressionistic because of the bubbles and by making the audience look through Jack’s hammered eyes, but it is also realistic by making the viewers feel like they are watching people in a real crowed bar. I will just point out that there is a part where the camera floats over multiple tables through talking people that is truly amazing because it is an original camera movement idea that gives the impression of a full bar.

I truly liked this movie. It is probably the first “older” film that I have ever been able to get emotionally invested in because I like the character of David. Also, the dog fights are a must see.

Check out the first Academy Award Best Picture winner!

-Kyle Schwab

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