A Little Non-Traditional Advice
I cannot remember the last time I was advised to watch a book outside the context of keeping an eye on someone’s MacBook while they went to the restroom. Never in my life have I heard of reading a movie. Reading Roger Ebert’s How to Read a Movie gave me a new perspective about analyzing film.
Bit by Bit
Previously when attempting to analyze films, I have directed my attention to the dialogue, plot, and movement. The idea of pausing to inspect individual frames for their deeper meaning never occurred to me. Looking back on some of my favorite movies, though, I can see the relevance of his method. Consider the scene from Star Wars with Luke looking up at the two suns of Tatooine. Here, something unnatural yet beautiful is being presented, along with a young man that feels like he does not belong and should be joining the rebellion with his friends. Luke’s presence on the planet is just as unnatural as the suns, and his desire to be part of the fight against the empire is noble; he wants to make a difference, something which he cannot do on the sands of Tatooine. Slowing down to appreciate the scene brings more meaning to it.
Another movie in which a particular scene comes to mind is Avatar. I went back to inspect the scene after the mercenaries attack the home tree. The tree has fallen, the roots are burning, and the Na’vi are running for their lives. Their lives are falling apart just as the leaves fall from their broken home. The image, while rendered beautifully, is intensely sad.
The ‘In’ Spot
The notion of intrinsic weighting in films made sense of course. Since video is many pictures strung together, it made sense that the various principles we discussed in week one would tie into film as well. As I have been writing this post, I have been catching small clips of the various shows on the television at my local Sheetz. Between Claws and Law and Order, the use of the strong axis was very prevalent, followed in frequency by the use of high and low eyelevel shots to display characters’ influences over others. Especially in courtroom scenes, the witnesses for the prosecution are almost always filmed to increase their power, whereas the defendants are usually looked down on by the camera.
What Does this Mean for Me
While Ebert never knew of directors and cinematographers consciously applying these principles, I will be keeping an open eye this week for applications in my video assignments. I am not an expert at film, and I will take all the help I can get jumpstarting my pieces to be pleasing to the eye.