Alvy’s First Session: Annie Hall’s First Scene and Its Relation to Bergman

November 11, 2020 by Essay Writer

Alvy’s First Session: Annie Hall’s First Scene and Its Relation to BergmanThe influence of Ingmar Bergman, Woody Allen’s favorite filmmaker, can be seen in many of Allen’s later films, but his inspiration is also evident in 1977’s Annie Hall. In protagonist Alvy Singer, Allen creates a wandering, Bergmanesque character whose problems are largely psychological but, though his agonies are internal, the audience is made aware of them through confessional scenes. The audience becomes a sort of psychiatrist that hears all of his qualms with the world around him and within him. The storyline is not typical of a standard Hollywood film; like Bergman Allen jumps around in a free association style that allows the audience to understand exactly what he is thinking and when and experience it with him. Although a complex character and narrative form in the Bergman tradition emerges throughout the film, the first scene clearly establishes these complexities.The identity of Alvy Singer develops in a free association manner, and the first scene gives a clear understanding of his wandering nature and his attempt to hide elements of himself behind a mask. After the credits have rolled in a simple format of white text on a black screen without the presence of music, an intimate close up of Alvy Singer confronts the audience. In front of a plain brown backdrop that fails to contrast his checkered brown jacket, Singer relates a joke that he believes applies to life. Replacing the spectacle of Hollywood openings stands the unimpressive Singer in a sparse mise-en-scene that does not provide any indication of the setting. The camera holds still on Singer’s rapid dialogue and mannerisms; his frequent hand gestures contrast the immobile angle as if the camera either does not understand the man before it or is perhaps just unacquainted with him − a state shared by the audience. The witty character of Singer now seems too colorful for the brown background, yet his jacket almost fuses into it; only his black rimmed glasses and red shirt give any indication of his actual person. Although he has been intimate with the audience, the jacket suggests that he has things to hide. The jacket also functions as a symbol of Singer’s attempts to fit in to his surroundings. Throughout the film he struggles with who he is and where he fits in, often wanting simply to blend into the background, so that, say, fans at the movie theater or intellectuals at the New Yorker party will notice him. This is also reflected in the very beginning, where the first noise the audience hears is the deep, anxious breath that Singer takes before he begins his monologue. His camouflage-like costume and display of anxiety creates an uneasy tension as the film proceeds as to whether Singer has been completely forthright with his account, which is reminiscent of Bergman’s characters creating illusions themselves. In addition to this, a few scenes later as a beautiful woman blows a kiss to the camera, he notes that “his mind tends to jump around a little and I have some trouble between fantasy and reality.” His position as a narrator has now been compromised, however the “truth” of his life does not matter as much as his perception of his reality, which influences his actions and allows the audience to gain insight into his Bergmanesque wandering character. Yet the question exists as to whether this character being presented is the true Singer or the self he wishes to present.Besides the intricacies of Singer’s personality, the first scene also establishes the narrative’s non-linear form, which Bergman often used. The opening intimate shot of Singer, which supplants the Hollywood formula of establishing shots, disorients the audience because of its bluntness. The order seems backwards; the intimate precedes the peripheral information. The dialogue follows this form as Singer divulges his theories on life before he reveals his name. However, after a short digression about aging Singer releases the reason for his unconventional actions: “Annie and I broke up and I still can’t get my mind around that and examining my life to figure out where did the screw-up come.” He has come to the audience seeking answers; exploring the circumstances on his own has not yielded a satisfactory answer. The nature of his inquiry explains his quick release of intimate details. After seeking assistance from people in his world like an older woman and a couple, he finally relinquished hope for a human to provide a reasonable answer, so he sought counsel with a horse. Now in a further act of desperation, he unconventionally breaks the Brechtian fourth wall in his search and addresses the audience. Singer’s obsession with Annie appears in his free association form of the narrative. Regardless of whether it is something someone has just said, something he has said or seen, or something entirely dissimilar, events trigger a jump to his time with Annie. The randomness and persistence of these associations indicates that his emotional state is that of a broken-hearted lover. His state of mind becomes the setting of the story. What he thinks, the audience sees; at one point he reverts to animation as he talks to the Wicked Witch from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). The jump cuts and flashbacks are all elements of free association discontinuity; he analyzes himself, and the audience must examine his psyche as well. Eventually they become fused and Singer’s narration disappears. The ellipsis editing moves fluidly without explanation from Singer because the peripheral details have been filled in, allowing the audience to enter an intimate relationship with the character. His thoughts become places that he can freely enter into with the audience and he can interact with his past because it is tied to his being. In a scene later in the film, Singer enters a flashback with Annie and Rob, and Singer yells at his parents that they are both crazy for arguing over their maid stealing. His friend Rob tells him, “Max, they can’t hear you.” The mechanism of this flashback conveys the principle of the impossibility of interfering with one’s past. However, in Singer’s perception this impossibility becomes entirety possible; in the next scene Rob speaks with Aunt Tessie, a face from the past. This relates Singer’s belief that the past intertwines with the present and future, and interaction is necessary for understanding all states of time and perhaps himself. This results in the triumph of free association narrative, which Bergman utilized most famously in his film Persona (1966).Annie Hall is a story whose form is dictated by the free associations of its main character. This is established in the first seemingly bland scene that reveals Singer’s persona, which dictates the style of the film.

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