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FLM 102- Joachim Back, “The New Tenants”: An Exception from classic Hollywood production

Sep 14, 2023

  1. Read Chapter 17 “Into the Twenty-first Century.”
    The final will take you about 2 hours–to watch the film and to answer the questions below in a short essay.


    1.  View the film   The New Tenants. You can follow this link or watch the download available at the end of this page.
    2. Write an essay that argues for your opinion about the film as an example of filmmaking in contemporary America. Discuss this issue in terms of its content and style.  Use terms and concepts from Chapter 17 to inform your opinion.
    3. Your essay must contain the elements of a standard essay: thesis statement, clear points in support of the thesis, and specific support for your answers to the three demands. each of the points.  

    The short essay must answer these three questions:

In what ways does the content of the film address important issues of this particular historical/political/social period? Chapters 12, 16, 17. Discuss how the story and plot elements of the film of the film reflect current events.

In what ways does the film follow or violate the conventions of Classic Hollywood Cinema? Chapters 2,3,4,5,6.

Discuss the film as an example of or departure from the narrative visual, and structural conventions of Classic Hollywood Cinema.

In what ways does the film reflect the style of contemporary American Cinema?  (Chapters 16, 17)

Discuss the film’s visual and structural elements (production design) and how they reflect the style and technology of current American cinema. 


Joachim Back, “The New Tenants”: An Exception from classic Hollywood production

Directed by Joachim Back, “The New Tenants” is a short film of 21 minutes. The movie revolves around a couple who find themselves terrorized by strangers after moving into an apartment (“The New Tenants”). The couple then looks to settle a score with the apartment’s previous owner. The screenplay of the movie was adapted from Anders Thomas Jense. The sequence of events in this short film leads to them or contributes to the development of the theme. In Back’s “The New Tenants,” the sequence of the events revolves around the theme of death.

Joachim Back’s short film “The New Tenants” bagged the Academy Award in the category of ‘Best Short Film’ in the year 2010. The plot of the movie revolves around a couple, Pete and Frank, who moved into a new apartment just a day ago. The opening scene is set at the dinner table, where Pete and Frank are seen having a strained conversation. Suddenly, the old lady tenant of the downstairs apartment knocks on the door. The old lady asks for some flour so that she can make some buns for her granddaughter.

She reveals something to Pete and Frank that they find surprising. The lady reveals that the apartment in which Pete and Frank are living has recently been a scene of triple homicides. It seems that the previous occupant, Jerry, was murdered in the apartment. Along with Jerry, the two other neighbors were also killed when they arrived at Jerry’s apartment in order to check the commotion. Before Pete and Frank digest the shocking news of the murder of three people, they encounter some strangers visiting their apartment.

The tension builds up with Jan’s suspicion that Jerry and his wife Irene have been involved in sexual relations and veers between excessive rage and self-pity. The tension intensifies with Zelko, a drug dealer who shows up with the suspicion that a large amount of heroin has been stolen by Jerry. Lastly, Jan’s wife Irene shows up, and she turns out to be the granddaughter of the old lady. Thus, the plot reflects the social condition of the 21st century as it reflects the complexity of human relationships. In addition, the short film fulfills the trend of short film production in the 21st century.

In “The New Tenants,” Back infused a sense of humor within the theme of death. The beginning of the film is quite modest as it shows a couple moving into a new apartment and plans to settle there. However, the simple plot quickly turns into a complex one with the old lady tenant’s arrival. While classic Hollywood movies focus on a single plot, this short film experiments with multiple plots, which is a strong feature of 21st-century movies in the Hollywood industry.

The narrative of the film has multiple dimensions. For instance, on the one hand, it discusses a couple’s shattering hopes and desire to live together in a newly rented apartment. On the other hand, it also displays an old grandmother’s selfless love for her granddaughter and hopes to treat her grandmother with the dish prepared by herself only. This shows contrasting relationships, which were rare in classic Hollywood cinemas. While portraying the two contrasting relationships, the film also presents a tense plot involving crime scenes.

The extreme criminal history of the apartment with three murders and then the showing up of the three strangers develop another plot of tension. Such multidimensional narrative in the short film category was hardly seen in classic Hollywood productions. As the movie proceeds, the focus gradually shifts from the couple to Jan’s wife, Irene. The involvement in an extramarital sexual relationship adds another dimension to the film while meeting the criteria of complex social relationships in contemporary society. Thus, the depiction of the film deviates from the conventional way of filming and establishes a new way of cinematography in the 21st century.

Throughout the movie, Back remained consistent with the theme of death through the darkness, which became popular in contemporary American cinema. The entire movie was filmed in a dark setting, which appropriately fits with the chaotic plot of the film. “The new tenants have been in the apartment for a day only. However, within the short time span, they encountered a series of unusual events, which were unwanted, and quite surprisingly, most of the visitors were found dead later.

The narrative involves mystery, and to fit with its sense of mystery, the theme of darkness seems appropriate. The simple, straightforward narrative, different plots, great acting, brilliant cinematography, element of mystery and suspiciousness, and great acting skills transform the film into a 20-minute journey of entertainment. There is a subtle sense of humor, which may not give the audience a belly laugh but can give a sense of comic relief. The chaotic plot of the film reflects the chaos of urban life in contemporary society, which has been portrayed in contemporary Hollywood movies.

The glassy-eyed drug dealer, the praying neighbor, and the husband who brandishes both the weapon and a vendetta contribute to the theme of darkness significantly while reflecting the style of technology of today’s American movies. The film may apparently seem quite simple, but it progresses rapidly. The use of modern cinematography helps the narrative fit within the 10-minute timeframe while making the readers keep pace with the rapid shift from one plot to another. On the whole, the modern style and use of technology throughout the film are quite evident. 

On a concluding note, it is right to assert that Back’s short film “The New Tenant” is an experimental production reflecting the context and the style of contemporary Hollywood cinema. The great acting, multidimensional plot, straightforward narrative, and sense of mystery and tension help build the theme of death and darkness in the film, giving the audience a 20-minute journey full of entertainment.

Work Cited

“The New Tenants”. Directed by Joachim Back. 2009. M&M Production.

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