Read Me A Movie

This week, my fellow DS 106er’s and I are delving into film.

Our assignment was to watch two clips from a set list and analyze them against Roger Ebert’s “How to Read a Movie.”  About the article – I really wish I could have attended one of Ebert’s Cinema Interrupts sessions.  That would’ve been so cool.  It made me think back to the film classes I took in college where we’d get together and watch films we’d never heard of and we’d wind up in lengthy discussion about the techniques used in the film.  I think Ebert brings up a lot of interesting points about film techniques that enhance and advance the story of a film.  While I haven’t sat down to watch a film with his article in mind yet, I think I agree with him about how things like composition and camera angles can change your impression of a character or what’s going on in a scene.

The two clips I chose to watch were Kubrick: One-Point Perspective and Example of a Match Cut.

Here’s Kubrick: One-Point Perspective:

The Kubrick video runs through a montage of scenes where Kubrick shoots using a one-point perspective.  A perspective with just one point will contain only one vanishing point on the horizon line, like this:

Inside_Greenwich_Foot_Tunnel

Stanley Kubrick is known for his love of the one-point perspective.  He used it a lot, as evidenced in the video.  He also often placed his main character, or all the action, in the center of the screen.  Ebert would say that this would objectify the character, kind of like seeing them in a mug shot.  I think this applies somewhat to Kubrick’s works, at least in the static shots.  However, in the action shots that use a one-point perspective, it’s less about how we see the character and more about how we feel as an audience.  Viewing the scene straight on makes you feel more like you are there – like you’re in it with the characters.  From this perspective, when a character is running down a long hallway, the audience feels the walls on both sides of them too.  If the character is running from something scary, the audience will feel a little scared being in that hallway too.  I think Kubrick’s technique is less about the characters and more about making the audience feel uncomfortable, or involved, depending on the scene (let’s be honest, it’s Kubrick – it’s probably uncomfortable.)  Thinking about the one-point perspective has made me understand that film techniques can do more than enhance a story or a character, they can also make an audience feel a certain way.

The match-cut clip I watched was from 2001 A Space Odyssey:

In this scene, a human-like gorilla throws a large bone in the air.  The camera follows the bone upwards as it barrels through the sky. Once it begins it’s descent, the scene cuts to a space ship, of a similar shape and size on screen, also descending.  A match-cut is used to create continuity of action between two shots and to link them perhaps metaphorically (thanks wikipedia!)  Here’s where, I have to admit that I’ve never seen the film 2001 A Space Odyssey, so I don’t really know what this scene is about but I have to assume that the filmmaker (more Kubrick!) used the bone and the space ship to tie seamlessly tie together two very different worlds.  Following Ebert’s logic, I might also assume that the space ship, since it’s travelling downwards, might be heading towards some perilous fate.  I’m hoping now that one of my classmates will pipe up here and tell me what’s really going on in this scene.

Each of these clips were really helpful for me to learn to analyze different film techniques.  Maybe I’ll even use these techniques in some of my DS106 work!

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