How to Read a Movie

It’s probably an embarrassment to myself to say that I don’t really know who Roger Ebert is. I know I’ve seen his face before, and I know he has something to do with film (based on what we’re learning this week), but I know almost nothing about him. But, I know what he’s talking about, in terms of scene composition.

To see things like The Rule of Thirds and the Golden Ratio being applied to moving, dynamic images like films is really an interesting thing to learn about, and I’ve never before thought about how the left third of the shot is negative and the right side is positive. I can’t necessarily believe that until I pay attention to it in a film context, but if that were so, it would be truly amazing. And, of course, he specifies that these are not absolutes, and that they are intrinsic. But why are they intrinsic in that way?

I mean, what he says about the left being “in the past” and the right being “the future” is technically believable and true, any visual timeline or even the rotation of clock hands telling you that. But then it makes me wonder: why do they move that way? Why do we believe in time moving in those directions? It could just as well be moving from right to left, but to think in that way is nearly impossible. Of course, this line of thought is exiting a reflection on the article and deviating more into a reflection on existing, so we’ll drop that for now.

I also found it interesting how he explained each shot as though it was a picture. In my mind, I was imagining pictures. Like I said before, maybe I would have to be viewing a film and actively looking for these things to be able to understand. But it kind of reminded me of how all films are just pictures put together in a certain way, at a certain speed. Film isn’t so different from photography in how the composition can be studied and analyzed.

But also, he did state that violating these intrinsic rules can be just as important as following them. And as a society that’s always trying to subvert the norm, find new ways of portraying the same thing, do things in the “wrong way”, etc… At what point does the violation of the rules become the rules? And will we loop back into what we consider to be “the rules” now, or will we step further off the path, in a way that we can’t currently imagine? Many of the films mentioned in the article are fairly old (I think). Are those rules already being subverted? I’ve watched several French New Wave films in a class long ago, and they were vastly different than films I’ve seen today, from what I can remember. Perhaps I should go back and study them in the mindset of this article, and then watch a few modern films.

From the videos on film making techniques:

The first one I watched was The Shining zooms compilation. It was a little difficult to process everything all at once, but from what I could see, a lot of the zooms are extended for a long time, taking a longer time than you would expect to zoom in or out. Often times, they would be use to track movements that were moving towards the camera. And always, the subject of the zoom would be in the very center, either closing in on their expression, or moving out to show the room around them.

The second one was a video of Alfred Hitchcock explaining film cuts. Now, this kind of technique can seem extremely simplistic, almost like a “duh” lesson. But in actuality, I find it very fascinating. What Hitchcock shows is how certain shots juxtaposed together can create a totally different story or character. This kind of idea is important in every kind of storytelling. It’s visible in films as it’s all a visual indicator, but I find interest in this as it applies to traditional storytelling, and how certain scenes and passages placed next to each other can create different stories depending on their arrangements.

From the third video about Camera Angles and Techniques, they discussed how certain techniques and angles can make a shot or film more dynamic. The technique I enjoyed most was The Folly, where the camera on a dolly is zoomed in one direction, while the dolly moves at the same speed in the opposite. So the Camera is zooming in, while the dolly is moved backwards, altering the perspective of the background, but not the subjects. It also talked about how having strange camera angles, such as from above, from below, or at diagonals can help create a more 3D world out of what is essentially two dimensional films.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *