This is one of the lesser-known, yet fantastic commercials. A super simple one indeed “Bertha Benz: The First Driver”
Main Character – One
Supporting characters – 5 (2 Kids + 2 ladies and 1 aged man)
Voice over – No
A class apart BG score.
TRT: 136 seconds
What I like the most is the insane simplicity of the commercial. The story happens in Germany on August 5th, 1888. A man who had built a horseless carriage for the first time in the region thinks it is not ready for the roads. Whereas his wife thinks otherwise and is also concerned that it isn’t marketed enough. She needs to go to her parents’ house which is about 106 km away from her home. She decides to take the car out for the first time without telling her husband, the authorities, and drive herself. That’s the plot of the commercial, which is a real story.
The first frame shows the auto carriage from inside the garage in a wide-angle, the garage door is opened by Bertha Benz and her elder son pushes the car out of the garage. Subsequently, we see many detailed shots.
The worried expression on her face at the 19th second clearly communicates that she is concerned about so many things. As the carriage comes closer to her, she also gets excited about the journey ahead which she had intended.
The 10 seconds from the 30th second is about the close-up shots of how the carriage gets started, the fuel lines, the vibrations created by the engine, and the happiness that she shares with her sons, who’re excited as well.
At the 46th second, both her sons are pushing the vehicle to move, and it starts moving fast leaving the kids behind. Looking back at her sons, Bertha gives a mixed look.
From the 50th second, the finest performance of the carriage is being shown along with the pride on Bertha’s face.
From the 70th second, it is about society. Nobody believes there is an auto carriage on the road, that too is driven by a woman, which was even more surprising for the onlookers. The kids were running along with the carriage.
At 1:26th second the car breaks down and she looks at the engine and at 1:31st second, she pulls the carriage to a flat surface and inspects the carriage. At 1:35th second, she looks at the carriage as if she is asking “Why are you letting me down?”.
The copy says “A valve clogs. An ignition fails”, and she starts to fix the problems with the tools and things available with her. She restarts the engine and starts to drive the carriage with a pride smile, as she looks at her surroundings. The copy says, “She drove more than a car” which almost gives goosebumps, especially when she looks at the camera with an emotion mixed with pride and happiness.
I respect each and everyone who has worked on this commercial. Though, I feel there is scope to make it a tighter and sharper one.
The scene at 1:17 seconds where the kid runs behind is confusing. Because the viewer can safely assume without this shot that the kids were only there till she starts her journey. With this frame there, it makes the viewers think that whether the kids were there for the entire journey? Actually not.
The elder man’s close-up at 1:19 is out of sync. Either a wide shot with his surroundings preceding his close-up would have added context, or I would have avoided it and made the commercial a few seconds shorter. The message is however conveyed through the ladies sitting below the tree shades on the subsequent frames.
The tree shot isn’t the right POV shot as well. It doesn’t connect with the succeeding or preceding scenes. I would have preferred Bertha’s POV shot from her seat. Actually, she does look to her left on the preceding frame, after that this tree shot doesn’t get connected because it is not the view she gets from her seat.
I would also have avoided the copy “She drove an industry” completely. The copy “She drove more than a car” alone serves the purpose, and it lets the viewer assume a lot further. They’ve only limited the viewer’s imagination by adding further to it.
In the end, she eventually made it to her parents’ house by evening and telegrammed her husband that she reached.
She carries the commercial in her eyes right from the beginning of the commercial.
Enjoy the commercial here,