Reading Movies

How to Read a Movie by Roger Ebert

I think that Ebert’s basic visual strategy is very interesting. I do not watch a lot of movies or television so I am not grounded on the intricacies of videography the way he is. However, as someone who has studied photography and photographic composition a number of times, the 20 some odd points he mentioned his article on  video composition make a great deal of sense.

As a military person, I salute with my right hand. The act of saluting with the right hand was a signal or a sign that you did not have a weapon drawn to the person you were saluting …your right hand is your “strong” hand.

Ebert’s comments basically can be distilled to the following:

  • the right side of the frame is the power side
  • the left side of the frame is the weak side
  • the center of the frame is neutral
  • the top side of the frame is dominant over the bottom frame
  • objects in the foreground of the frame are dominant over objects in the background

The video clip entitled “The Shining//Zoom” gave the viewer a perspective that the world was out of balance by moving left to right, top to bottom, in a downward diagonal direction. The video started with the first dominant clip in the upper left  (negative) corner. Clip placement moved across the upper portion of the screen with clips of persons that appeared to be increasingly more superior. It was interesting to see that the second to the last clip was of the young man who was on the bottom row to the left of center  (negative position), in the final clip he was in the middle of the screen left of center (weak axis). Again, a movie I have never seen.

Video clip entitled “Tarantino//from Below”  has various vignettes that are taken from the submissive position of looking up from below,  weaker to the stronger. The other technique that was used was extreme high angle shots that made person, in most cases unseen, seem like pawns and the persons looking down appearing to have ultimate control and in Ebert’s term, the “low angles make them into gods.”

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