Le Quai Des Brumes Sequence Analysis- The Power of Love
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People say that love is something extremely powerful and miraculous; it is a language that the blind can see and the deaf can hear. Director Marcel Carné attempted to show that love has the ability to change a person in many different ways in his movie Le quai des brumes (Marcel Carné , 1938). This attempt is most evidently presented in the sequence of Jean meets the ship doctor, who invites him to sail to Venezuela with him on the port; and the sequence following, in which Jean goes to the carnival with his lover, Nelly.
There is an apparent attitude change of Jean when the scene shifts from the one in which He is talking to the ship doctor he meets on the port to the scene of him going to the carnival with Nelly. When Jean is facing Dr. Molène, a stranger he just met, the ship doctor who is about to leave for Venezuela, he keeps remaining a poker face and an indifferent attitude. In the scene, there were several close-ups to the faces of Dr. Molène and Jean, contrasting the apparent difference in their facial expressions as their dialogue goes on. Despite the smiley face and all the acts of friendliness of Dr. Molène, including padding on Jean’s paint box and telling him the story of how he wanted to be a painter at first but eventually became a doctor and inviting Jean to have a drink with him and to sail to Venezuela together, Jean shows almost no interest in opening himself to the doctor.
Dr. Molène has this special fondness toward Jean because of his passion and love for painting, and he thinks that Jean is a painter. Although we can’t tell how Dr. Molène treats others from the film, there is an interesting contrast between how a worker on the port , who has no special feelings toward Jean, answers Jean’s question and the doctor’s reaction when he answers Jean’s question. This contrast shows that Dr. Molène’s friendly attitude is certainly caused by his love for painting. Not only the doctor, but also Jean himself exemplifies how love can change a person’s attitude.
When he is with Nelly, his lover, Jean no longer has that indifferent poker face; instead, he has a smile on his face all the time. Also, he is no longer looking tense like he did when he was talking to the ship doctor. Jean appears to be much more relaxed when he is with Nelly. Also, in both scenes, Jean is hiding something. When Jean was talking to Dr. Molène, he is pretending to be a painter; and when Jean is with Nelly, he is concealing the fact that he is leaving soon. Nevertheless, Jean’s love for Nelly makes him hold totally different attitudes.
When Jean tells Nelly that he needs to take another picture because he “needs it” and gives no further explanation, he says it in a pretty confident way. In contrast, when Jean was with the doctor, he seems to be bad at lying and not very confident. Jean’s attitude can be described as very uncertain and he obviously lacks confidence when he steals the lines “I paint things behind things…” from the painter Michael. As he talking to the ship doctor about his view on painting, he makes sounds like “Uh…well…” and he also repeats his words quite often.
This concludes that the loving relationship between Jean and Nelly gives Jean not only comfort and happiness but also confidence. Jean’s attitude is changed by love in many different aspects in the sequences. Love also affects how different male character in Le quai des brumes attempt to show their masculinity. The way Lucian acts when he is with his girlfriend at the carnival clearly demonstrates how his desire of being love and respected affects his attitude. At the bumper-car scene, Lucian said, “I’ll get the tickets.” “What about the line?” said his girlfriend.
“Wait in line? Who do you think I am?” replied Lucian. By cutting the line rudely and pay for the tickets for his friend and their girlfriends with a handful of money, Lucian obviously wants to impress his girlfriend by showing how manly and respectful he is. Furthermore, when they get on the bumper-cars, Lucian pushes away others to get on the car, runs his car wildly, and deliberately knocks off stranger’s hat from behind. Unfortunately, Lucian’s attempt of using a rude attitude to exhibit his masculinity turns out to be a complete failure as he knocks off Jean’s hat and gets slapped by him. At that moment, Lucian is slammed back to whom he really is, the coward that wouldn’t even fight back when he is being slapped.
In the same carnival scene, Jean demonstrates how the male character in the movie can be affected by love in a completely different way. With Nelly, Jean is no longer the melancholy guy that will describe life as “a rotten business.” He is caring, gentle and energized. Unlike what Lucian did to show his masculinity, Jean shows his masculinity by being a protective gentleman. As they walking in the carnival, Jean walks at the same pace as Nelly, holding her arm or shoulder. Also, he talks in a slower speed and in a more gentle tone, comparing to the way he talks at the port.
At the carnival scene, Jean also says sweet things that seem impossible to come out from the “normal,” cynical Jean; for example, “Just looking at you, and listening to your voice, makes me want to cry.” These are all very different from the image of the character that the audience can see from the previous sequence. In the scene of Jean and Nelly kissing in the carnival, Jean shows his caring side by asking Nelly whether she is hungry. Nelly replied that she felt good, “You have no idea how good I feel with you, I’m free. I’m alive.
This is what happiness must be like.“ said Nelly. What Jean said next is the best prove of Marcel Carné’s attempt to show that love has the ability to change a person in the movie Le quai des brumes. “If you talked nonsense like that to someone else I’d think it was dumb. But when you say it to me, I really like it.“ By saying this to Nelly, Jean explicitly states that his love to Nelly changes the way he looks at things. Besides the differences of the characters in the scenes, following the shift from the scene of Jean talks to the ship doctor on the port and in the bar to the scene of Jean goes to the carnival with Nelly, there is significant changes in the atmosphere that helps to depict the idea that love has the power to change people.
Most apparent of all, the two sequences have completely different kind of background music. In the scene of Jean talks to the ship doctor on the port, the background music is melancholy and heavy, which is very different from the light-hearted and cheerful background music in the carnival scene. The music selection of the port scene seems to be a foreshadowing audio motif that divulges the tragic ending of the movie, where Jean failed to sail to Venezuela and start a new life. The utterly different music in the two sequences seems to be a way director Marcel Carné uses to strengthen the contrast between a scene full of love and a scene that lacks it and therefore to bolster the idea that love can change people.
Further more, the port scene portrays a busy, industrial environment that is haunted by shadows, smoke and fog. Everyone in it seems to be busily doing their jobs. On the other hand, in the carnival scene, Carné includes several shots of the fast-moving crowds and even smiles on people’s faces in the background. This creates a general cheerful, lively and relaxing feeling.
This significant contrast between the atmospheres of the two sequences that is created by the different backgrounds also further reinforces the contrast between how Jean acts when he is with his lover, Nelly and when he is with a stranger, the ship doctor. By making the contrast of the overall feeling in the two sequences even more apparent, the atmosphere change therefore acts as a support of the idea that love has the ability to change a person.
In the movie Le quai des brumes, and especially in the consecutive sequences of the port scene that follows the carnival scene, the director uses various different methods to express his opinion about the power of love. The director Carné and the scriptwriter Prévert chose to include a scene of a carnival that differentiates itself greatly form the rest of the movie, which has a bleak visual tone and a gloomy ambiance, with its cheerful and vivacious nature.
The unique carnival sequence seems not to be included in this movie by a coincidence. The change in the characters’ attitudes, their different ways of showing masculinity and the contrast of the atmospheres of the two sequences all contribute in building support for Marcel Carné’s idea that love is extremely powerful and is able to change a person in many different ways.