In the opening shot of F.W. Murnau's silent classic The Last Laugh the film camera excitingly swoops into a fancy and luxurious hotel as you witness a elderly doorman who feels proud of his respected position. The man expresses much more pride in the uniform he wears which is full of several gold buttons and braids, including silver opera cuffs and brass military labels. Every day of the week this doorman eagerly greets the rich and famous as they arrive and depart through the always busy revolving door. Unfortunately old age will ultimately demote this doorman's prestigious position and stature to the humiliating position of a simple washroom attendant, which will not only embarrass the elderly man's pride in front of family and friends, but it will crush the man's spirit and integrity that he earlier had embodied.
Most silent films can label themselves silent but The Last Laugh is one film that is most truly silent, because it doesn't include any inter-titles or words of dialogue whatsoever. Most of the great silent directors were proud in the artistic integrity of expressing a story without sound and words, but Murnau was the first director ever who decided to not even use a single printed word (Well, besides his letter of demotion, there is one sequence near the end). Murnau knew that all he needed to express in the story he wanted was through the shots, movements, shadows and angles, with facial expressions told through the simple lens of the camera. But what makes The Last Laugh even more remarkable is its groundbreaking use of the moving camera, as the film is often described as the first film to make great use of a moving point of view. These smooth camera techniques were given a title called 'the unchained camera,' which is most certainly obvious in a sequence in which Murnau uses the camera to glide down an elevator and through a hotel lobby, and end up outside on the wet streets below.