There is a lot of realism in Woody Allen's movie, Manhattan. Realism is about showing the truth. A realistic film will try to preserve the illusion that the film environment is not manipulated, but a mirror of the real world. These films make use of available natural light, for instance the sun or the moon. They can also use non-professional actors, that is real people in real situations like in documentaries. In these movies, sets are not built, but instead existing buildings or outdoor locations are used. The films are about everyday people and everyday situations. The films also deal with social issues for instance poverty and romance, among others. Here's what you need to know about realism in Woody Allen's movie, Manhattan.
"Manhattan" starts in an early morning setting and the sun is rising in New York City, over which the sound of Woody Allen, acting as writer Isaac Davis, in a prologue presents us with New York City's most beautiful scenery: the Brooklyn Bridge, fireworks over Central Park, the Empire State Building, the skyline at dawn, while the romantic song Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin plays. With this start, realism is achieved by use of a real New York city setting and a very well known song playing in the background. The Brooklyn Bridge and also the horizon help to bring out realism. The placement of the two characters seems of no consequence and minute in comparison to the size of the bridge. This can be taken as representing the size and oppressive presence of New York City itself.
When the film starts the most dominant figure is the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge is naturally lit, it is much brighter than the darker elements below. After the bridge, the eye focuses on the main contrast, the characters on the bench. By looking objectively, one could see two characters. They also stand out because they are almost pure black in a view dominated by shades of gray. On the left, there is a centrally located lamppost, which seems to divide the view in half, and a brick wall on the left help balance the weight of the couple on the right. Again this balance helps to create reality.
The viewer is introduced to Woody Allen as Isaac, a successful New York television writer who quits his job to author a novel. Isaac has a married friend Michael Murphy, playing Yale. Yale tells Isaac that he has been unfaithful to his wife with a woman named Mary, played by Diane Keaton .When Isaac and his teenage girlfriend, Mariel Hemmingway as Tracy, coincidentally meet Mary and Yale at a museum, Isaac is immediately repelled by Mary’s intellectual and opinionated character. He protests about her to Tracy after they leave, but later on when they meet at a party, they go down well. Knowing each other through Yale, they decide to share a taxi after the party and they end up spending the night strolling through Manhattan. As morning dawns, they continue their talk sitting together beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. The social issues tackled here of relationships, betrayal, and unfaithfulness.
The gap between Isaac and Mary suggests that during their walk the two have grown close and have surely got over Isaac’s dislike for Mary. Their isolation from the audience suggests contrasting ideas. One, they are just anonymous people within the large New York City. On the other hand, they are alienated together, privately developing feelings for each other. Romantic realism is further highlighted by the use of black and white and a soft focus lens, which gives the site a real, almost magical quality.
The lighting of the scene is natural. There seems to be no artificial light, and all the light in the scene is coming from a source that seems to be beyond the horizon. Another natural aspect of the film is the use of a wide-angle lens, which creates a deep focus, as if the eye would focus on the scene.
In "Manhattan," Allen is a real person, self-aware, confident and assured . Allen most often casts himself as the object of female attraction in his other films, a role that often demands a certain level of disbelief on the part of the viewer. But in Manhattan one can appreciate what the women see in him.
The social setting consists of real writers. Four of the main characters are writers: Isaac Davis is a former television writer who leaves his work to write a book. Yale is a teacher who is writing a biography of O'Neill. Mary Wilke is a journalist writing mostly on art and Jill, Isaac's ex-wife, publishes a tract by called "Marriage, Divorce and Selfhood" about their marriage. In the film the names of great writers are mentioned, for instance Strindberg, Bergman, Fellini, Kafka and Groucho Marx, each one mentioned as if he was a reference in the psychological development of the character. The use of these real writers and real examples helps to make the film realistic.
Social issues of betrayal are also brought out. The shortness of life, the briefness of relationships, intellectual dishonesty, and the role of art as a remedy to some of our situations, are some of his themes mainly tackled in this film.