There are, of course, close-ups in Lives .  But two things need to be said about them.  Where there are close-ups of persons’s faces, they are not emotionally arresting, because, with the exception of the “Lulu coda,” the performers’ faces are generally impassive and, in addition, sometimes almost still.  This makes it very hard to read their emotional significance.  Thus, though close-ups of faces, they are not emotionally infectious ones.  One of the only deviations from this norm that I remember occurs when Valda, slyly smiling in a medium close-up, turns away from Fernando after  their discussion about her solo.

As well as close-ups of faces, the film also contains a wealth of close-ups of “detached,” sometimes decontextualized, body parts—feet, midsections, and the like. Frequently this occurs while emotionally significant material is being read on the soundtrack.  But these close-ups tend to decouple the affect of the words from the images.  By fragmenting the human body in this way, Rainer depersonalizes it, rendering it anonymous and denuding it of its expressive powers.

When we see shots of the legs or shoulders of characters, these do not visually narrate the situation in a way that stimulates an affective response, even if such a response might be appropriate, given the accompanying text.  Though these shots in some sense illustrate the story, not only do they fail to engage the viewer emotionally, they even block such reactions, disposing us toward calmly heeding the flatly delivered propositional content of the emotional states, rather than being revved up by their bodily manifestation.