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DM's: The Blue Angel (Der Blaue Engel) - Archetypical Characters
Have you watched Der Blaue Engel?
Der Blaue Engel by Josef von Sternberg
This is an original draft by David Mayes. Not meant for citation.
The Blue Angel may be an out-of-date film, but it is still a magnificent film to view, especially when studying theater or the beginning of the film making industry. While watching the film it is difficult not to draw the types of archetypical characters the actor are portraying immediately. From first glance it was easy to tell that Professor Rath, waking up alone with only a bird and books for company, was obviously the sad and lonely man. It was just as simple to denote Lola Lola as the ‘deadly woman’ or femme fatale, with her flirtatious glances, seductive singing, and sexually appealing dress. The hardest character to place was the magician. Through continued viewing it is made clear that he must be the catalyst of tragedy. This character archetype is given because it is he, the magician, who introduces the professor to the entire Blue Angel audience. It is also he who seems to appreciate Rath at the wedding reception, drawing him into the show by performing his magical ‘egg out of your nose’ trick. Though the characters all had the archetypical characterizations, they were also easy to separate from the rest of the cast, due to their individual actions.
Professor Rath is a character that moves in a full circle throughout the movie. He begins as a sad and lonely old man and eventually dies in his former classroom all alone, completing the circle. The professor begins the movie in a somewhat happy mood, whistling to his bird, but finds out his bird is dead. As he leaves he is a very proud and confident man that commands respect from the community around the high school. Of course in a tragedy such a ranking cannot stay long, as he is slowly driven from the stern professor to a humiliated clown. Director Josef von Sternberg exclaimed that his movie is essentially ‘the downfall of an enamored man,’ in his published script (von Sternberg 1968, pg. 5). As said before, the professor’s character completes a circle. In the middle he is rather joyful because he is experiencing love, thus the ‘lonely man’ persona has temporarily been lifted. By the end of the movie Rath is completely embarrassed on stage in front of his former community and notices Lola kissing another man backstage.
The professor as an individual is very interesting. There seems to be a lot of moments that happen to him twice, or even thrice, each having different meanings or expressing different moods. For instance, the professors bird dies early on, showing how sad and lonely his life is, but later he wakes in Lola’s room and a bird is cheerfully squawking, showing the new-found joy in his life. There are also scenes where Lola is singing a song with lyrics as such: ‘falling in love again, never wanted to, what am I to do? I can't help it’ that signals the beginning and ending of their love, and relationship (von Sternberg 1930, pg. 8). Another set of moments are when the magician performs his egg trick, first for Rath and later for the Blue Angel crowd. The first moment the egg trick is performed signals the initiation of Rath into the show during Rath and Lola’s reception, whilst Rath crows and enjoys himself. Later, the egg trick forces Rath to crack, due to an instance of extreme embarrassment that cause the disenchanted crowing of Rath. Rath is a diverse character, as shown above, who is doomed to live and die as a lonely man.
Lola was a vixen from the very first minute she appeared on screen, by way of a poster. She is extremely attractive and is constantly flirting with any man who comes into her line of sight. For this reason, and others, she is labeled as the femme fatale (von Sternberg 1930, pg. 7). Upon Rath’s arrival she singles him out in the crowd and stretches her hand towards him, gesturing for him to come on stage. Though being sexy and seductive is part of the femme fatale it is not the only characteristics of one. Femme fatale literally means deadly woman. In this movie she fulfills that roll by completely destroying Rath’s career, raising him to the mountaintop of love, and then shoving him off the cliff of anguish. A fall from such a cliff is what leaves Rath a lonely, broken man.
As an individual, Lola was the most intriguing and confusing character in The Blue Angel. From the start of the movie she is flirting with everyone and seems incapable of love. Then she is shown singing ‘Falling In Love’ to Rath. The song is a show of her true feelings: she is falling in love, she doesn’t want to fall in love, and she doesn’t know what to do about it. It was seriously confusing when she made advances on Rath and accepted his returned advances. In the end, she remained the same archetype: the deadly woman.
For the final, major archetypal character there is the magician, who subtly becomes the catalyst of tragedy. The most important roll he plays is the exacerbating character of Rath’s downfall. He shows right away that money is king to him as he is bribed by a student, which he stated shouldn’t be in Lola’s changing room. Later he proves to be accepting or drawing the professor in as he gives the professor an apology beverage. He begins pushing Rath toward dissension when he stops the show to introduce the professor to the entire audience, as the honored guest. This is seemingly a generous act but for a well-respected professor to attend such a grungy place as The Blue Angel is a way dishonoring him. As a character he was simply a slick-haired businessman looking out for only himself and wishing to dominate people.
In the end all the characters maintained their own archetypes. Each character is different, but each is just as important to the movie as the others.
Von Sternberg, Josef. The Blue Angel. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968. Book print with storyline.
Von Sternberg, Josef. The Blue Angel. 1930. Printed synopsis.
The Blue Angel. Dir. Josef Von Sternberg. Perf. Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, and Kurt Gerron. Universium Film, 1930. Film.