Tuesday, July 19, 2016
City Girl (USA, 1930)
German filmmaker F. W. Murnau made a very good work in this film showing the clash between two worlds. Urbanization was already a undeniable reality in many countries of Northern hemisphere back to 1920s, including the United States. Although farms still existed in America and kept their original country lifestyle, the existence of big cities around them could no longer be denied. The stereotypes of innocence related to the countryside and excitement around city life are also challenged. At the same time, Murnau managed to keep his typical romantic style of showing two lonely souls falling in love despite all chaos, poverty and uncertainty around them.
Lem is a relatively naive son of a farmer from Minnesota, who went to Chicago in order to try to sell the wheat crop of his father’s farm for the best price possible. He met a sweet waitress in the big city called Kate and decided to marry her and take her to the farm with him. But things would not be easy.
In addition to arrive back home as a married man, Lem could not sell the wheat for a good price and he ended up losing money. That was disastrous news to his father, as his family desperately needed the money of that transaction. They were facing financial difficulties in the farm and struggled to make ends meet. The timing of this film was also interesting, considering it was made at around the time of The Wall Street Crash of 1929.
When Lem arrived back home with Kate, she was accepted and welcomed by his mother and sister, but not by his father. In addition of having his authority challenged by a marriage he had no idea about, he also resented Lem about the low price of wheat and instinctively blamed Lem’s bad transaction to his marriage with Kate.
In addition to have a hard time to handling her dictatorial, even physically abusive father in law, Kate also had a problem to adjust to the lifestyle of a farm. Things went from bad to worse when she became a object of curiosity of other men of the country and one of them even made some advancements towards her. It led to a misunderstanding of Lem’s father thinking it was Kate who was encouraging those advancements. Even Lem started having doubts about his wife’s faithfulness. One night, after a particularly heated arguments, Kate decides to leave Lem. Lem got to find her and bring her back home, but not without running the risk of being involved in a huge tragedy.
A particularly interesting thing is that Kate’s difficulties in handling her marriage did not come from out of the countryside, but they all came from that apparently calm and idyllic environment. The country could also be a threatening environment, where people could no longer be trusted and safety could not be taken for granted.
Although the plot of this film is related to the loss of overall excitement in American society at the end of so-called roaring twenties, this film stood well the test of time. It shows with accuracy the difficulties of a recently-married couple in adjusting to each other and circumstances around them. In addition to lots of love, it is required a sense of commitment, faith in your partner’s character and responsibility in dealing with that relationship in the context of both family and labor routine. Actor Charles Farrell’s acting as Lem was pretty convincing as a simple, hard-working man with a heart of gold.