These people, this city and these tasks provide a distraction and perhaps evoke a rare whimsical side to his nature. But in the end it is this human nature that will alienate him from all of those whom he knows (be they crooks, radicals or cultural gangsters). He will be left alone, back to his hotel room to recede into his madness. The ideas of servitude and class play a very strong roll in the film. The first sign of this could be seen in the introduction of the hotel seen through the bus boy. He is presenting The Man with his morning coffee and telling him that he has no mail. The Man then gets changed and spends his day (a sit could be assumed that he spends everyday) smoking, washing and staring into space, often reading books and writing notes. The most productive of these activities is always interrupted by a visitor. This visitor makes him aware of a transporting job he could do for him. Throughout the film The Man transports what appears to be a violin/musical instrument and a camera. These are cultural instruments and could be outlawed in this strange city.
The omnipresence of men and the non-appearance of women or any signs of femininity could be seen as a strong idea in the film. Perhaps this is central to The Man's anguish and despair. Maybe even the film (as a form itself) is in despair because of this exclusion of the female in any form, and in response to this, severely critical of The Man and the male characters in the film. But one may rest with the conclusion that the film (as a medium/form) is a scientific analysis of its characters, linking perhaps female exclusion to the male characters and their sterile business-like-yet brotherly bond and their individual self-destructive natures. In this atmosphere a woman would be unable to exist, their void is filled with cigarette smoke. But the film as a character itself, maybe attacking its own images (jump cuts/ sound/ blur and focus/ lines and lack of round contours associated with women) in retaliation. Because, at The Man's large and empty hotel room, a woman would surely shrivel and die. This may be the key to his anguish, and by not being present, the very idea of a woman maybe ubiquitous, and through the cinema as a character and not just as a form, it may even be unconsciously mourned. The Man, who rarely interacts (avoiding handshakes at times etc), finally immerses himself into the outside culture by opening the parcel that he is to transport. It is a camera. He assembles it and begins to take photographs, but this will be his doom. For no sooner does he interact by exploring the possibilities of photography and furthermore going straight to the address of one of the men in charge, that he has alienated himself. He is seen perhaps only as a courier and must not meddle with anything. Furthermore, it is when he discovers the camera (photography) that he is disregarded by the others as a 'meddler', for they are cultural fascists not 'artists' or liberators of the image. He is just a simple courier, a man who transports their goods, nothing more.
The language of cinema could be seen as the main protagonist as it is the most active character throughout and in moments draws attention solely to itself. It is in this language that one can find the autonomous existence of both the image and the sound. Most notably all of the dialog has been erased and has been replaced with captions. Through these caption slates one can understand the conversations that are unfolding and one can watch the characters slowly turn on The Man. The audio used is rarely associated closely to the image shown. The sounds of cars and streets can be heard throughout as characters converse, providing a kind of objectivity that the audience can access. The sounds are loud and quiet and are treated like a piece of music that adds to the tension or melancholy presented through the image. The camera is one of a microscope. It analysis characters critically, and with that, the images themselves (with characters and commotion) could almost be understood on their own. The humanity of the individual characters shines through, even in the text/dialog. In two sequences the camera watches a game of chess in the immediate foreground while a conversation manifests in the background. The focus is switched between the two and in moments the movements of pieces coincide with the characters in the background. This absurd notion could be seen as both simply humorous and structuralist, a wedding of humor and Mise en scene that nods tongue-in-cheek to the type of film language that is being deployed (the use of jump cuts and focus are also notable throughout- in sound as well as image). The constructs are naked and unmasked.
The film is bookended with the anguish and despair of The Man (he is often left in tears or staring lifelessly). This is the one certainty of the film. The film changes from strict formalism to non-formalism. In the final shot one sees a motorway at night. The sounds of cars finally catch up with the image of the cars as they pass. One could note that one is seeing what one is hearing. The image and sound are one at last but not quite. With complete reverse focus, the image could be understood to have been transformed. It is no longer a simple image of cars and light. One can see only tiny discs of light as they travel around the frame. Are these cars? Is this a motorway? The possibilities of vehicles look like pennies sliding around in an x-ray machine. The headlamps shine and fuse like transparent buttons in an osmosis of light. While the sound is a quiet hum of breeze and engine.