I took a film class a few semesters ago and ever since then I have never looked at film the same way. By no means does that make me an expert on film, but my girlfriend sure does find it annoying sometimes to watch movies together. That being said I agree and disagree with Roger Ebert’s argument. He presents a valid argument, but as he states that it is not a definitive action and are more of tendencies more or less. However, movement and placement of characters most certainly invoke some sort of emotion, which is what I agree with Ebert on the most. Though movement and placement are not exactly what makes a film a film. The “shot at a time” analysis of a film is an excellent way to see how these actions play on our emotions, but I feel as if they are more circumstantial than what Ebert intended to argue, which he continuously states throughout his essay. While the placement of characters is an important part of cinematography placement of the camera is where the real emotion takes place. The right or wrong emotion comes from where the camera lays and what angle it shoots from regardless of the placement of characters, especially from left to right.
I know we were only suppose to go through two of the videos on perspective, but I decided to go through most of them because I enjoy it so much. The two that stood out most to me were Stanley Kubrick’s and Quentin Tarantino’s use of the camera, one being low angle and the other being the one point perspective. Personally, Tarantino is my favorite director. I have watched every single one of his films to many times to even count and a few semesters ago I did a project on Inglourious Basterds. The way both Tarantino and Kubrick deploy their cameras, rather than their actors, is what gives their films certain emotions. Tarantino with his low angles gives his actors a great sense of power and control, while Kubrick’s one point perspective enhances the focus on any character in the shot, which also enhances the pure emotions they display whether it be anger, happiness, or fear. However, where Ebert’s argument comes into play is after the placement of the camera. What I mean by that is after the camera is set the placement of characters is vital to keep the emotion flowing continuously rather than awkwardly. For instance take a look at this shot from Kubrick’s The Shining:
Jack Nicholson is perfectly center on the screen and the camera is a straight on still shot giving the one point perspective. Imagine if the actor was placed either to the left or to the right rather than straight on at the camera. It would give off an entirely different effect and emotion and the acting probably wouldn’t be taken as serious. Then again had the actor not portrayed the character in such a way and he was sitting motionless to the left or to the right the effect would more than likely give off the same feeling of insanity because of the movie as a whole.
I think the only way to test if Ebert’s argument is correct is to take a film you have never heard about and watch the film by pausing for every shot write down what you feel and see (while on silent) and then watch the film in its entirety afterwards and see if you were right or if the film gave off an entirely different vibe. While character placement and perspective is important in analyzing a film it is far from an end all way of critiquing a film. Also, when Ebert continuously reasserts that his argument is not an end all notion I have my doubts that it works that way in most situations and believe that again the placement and perspective of characters is more circumstantial.