Tuesday, March 25, 2014


     In the beginning...She Blinded Me With Silents (Post 11 of 12)

The Last Laugh

F. W. Murnau's  The Last Laugh, the story of the character disintegration of a porter/doorman after he is relieved of his job and uniform, is yet another movie I first saw in my History of Film class and watching it today there are three things that stand out to me. 

The first, and one of the reasons the movie is looked at in a film class is the point of view of the camera which is sometimes distorted and never plays it straight with its narrative point of view. We get the inebriated view of the doorman when he drinks and the distorted and overblown laughter of his neighbors when they are mocking him. The camera moves quickly and sharply when the porter is doing his job and in his element. When his gets his dismissal letter, the film slows down and the vision of the porter is blurred, not wanting to read what is on the paper.

The second way to look at this film is as a character story. The doorman/porter is relieved of his job and stripped of his duties and the whole world crumbles as he becomes a lowly (in his eyes) washroom attendant. Emil Jannings plays the porter as an overly proud man who struts around like a peacock. It's partly to Janning's credit that we nevertheless feel such sympathy for him when this once strutting peacock becomes a washing room attendant and seems to barely now possess the capability to even move.  

The third way to look at the film is the ending. The real ending of the movie has the ex-doorman at his depth of despair in the washroom, not too far from the end. But there is a tacked on epilogue that begins with a title card that says something to the effect that the ending of this movie that you are about to see is basically nonsense, but we're going to show it to you anyway. So, the doorman is given an inheritance that is given to him because he was nice to a millionaire in the washroom. We see the now rich ex-doorman eating caviar, being waited on and living a happy life.

If the movie had ended in the washroom, perhaps it would have just been too bleak for the audience to accept. But since the ending is so far-fetched, perhaps they could have cut to one final shot of the old man dying with a smile on his face, with the part with him getting rich being shown as just a happy dream and the last thought he would ever have. But who am I to re-write The Last Laugh?


  1. I imagine Murnau being a bit of a primadonna and royally pissed at having this ending forced on him. He is basically saying Screw you guys! to the producers.
    This is, despite the ending, one of my favorite silent films.