What Makes a Scene

Reading through Roger Eberts “How to Read a Movie” showed me there are multiple components to a movie that are used and seen that are not always conscience patterns. In his explanation of what it means to read a movie he analyzes a scene from the movie Notorious from 1946. In this scene he highlights the positions of all the actors one positioned on the strong axis, one in the foreground and one in the background, through the scene Cary Grant’s character moves from left to right and turns his back on the camera actions that, without words, indicate negativity and less favorable emotions from the character. These components of the shot are things that I would not have noticed before. I would have noticed the emotions of the character but not so why. Now that Ebert has pointed out these elements that influence the scene I understand more of what it takes to create a feeling or mood with cinematography.

With this new look at movies I took to examining the scenes in “Top 20 Cinematic Techniques” and “Tarantino From Below“. The Children of Men scenes show primarily movement from right to left indicating something negative, from Atonement the background constantly being moved from elements in the foreground shows the eagerness to put the negative things behind the characters, in the scene from the Lord of the Rings the camera moves from left to right show a positive movement towards the future, with the scenes from Kill Bill the movement from left to right indicates a positive shift and the perceived angle provided by the stairs implies a forced movement towards the future. All these elements add subtle and not so subtly to the mood that is being set. In all the shots in From Below the use of the upward angle makes the audience feel as though they characters on screen have more power.

Now that I have read about how these previously overlooked elements of a shot can affect the final scene and examined a collection of different executions of their use I feel like I will be more mindful of how a movie portrays its scenes more and less about what it is portraying. I think that these elements create certain feels to a scene because of how we as humans see certain actions and movements, such as someone turning their back to you is seen as negative, when these actions are implemented in a scene they convey those thoughts without anything other than the shot itself. I’m not sure if I like the fact that this will affect my movie viewing as I don’t know if it will end up distracting me from enjoying the content. Only time will tell.

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