…women & cinema… reading technique: photography and mise en scene
Review from last week • What kind of art is film? • …like music. Time bound. Aural. • …like still photography. Capturing “reality.” The Frame. Light, shots, angles. • …like painting. Elements of composition and design. • …like theatre. Group experience. Dark space. Staging of Three-Dimensional Space • What sets film apart?
Photography & • Mise-en-scene
Photography • *Louis Gianetti and Jim Leech, Understanding Movies. • “A photograph is by no means a complete and whole reflection of reality: the photographic picture represents only one or another selection from the sum of physical attributes of the object photographed.” • Why is this important to remember? What is the risk with photography and film in terms of representation and reality?
The Spectrum… • (General, not absolute terms) • Style: Realism-------Classicism -------Formalism • Type: Documentary------FICTION-----Avant-Garde • Most films fall in the in-betweens of these general categories.
And so… • “…realists…try to preserve the illusion that their film world is unmanipulated, an objective mirror of the actual world. Formalists, on the other hand, make no such pretense. They deliberately stylize and distort their raw materials so that only the very naïve would mistake a manipulated image of an object of event for the real thing” (2). • “Realist cinema specializes in art that conceals art.” • For realists, “beauty of form is often sacrificed to capture the texture of reality as it’s ordinarily perceived.” 4 • Formalists are often referred to an expressionists as they are making obvious that the film is an expression of their vision. “Formalist movies are stylistically flamboyant.” 4 • “Expressionists are often concerned with spiritual and psychological truths, which they feel can be conveyed best by distorting the surface of the material world…[hence] Formalist movies have a high degree of manipulation, of re-forming of reality..” 5
Q: Does realism mean reality? • Does formalism mean not real?
Categories are always provisional • Often, we might say something FEELS real in cinema even if it is highly stylized Therefore, the formalist style can give the impression of realism/can make you feel something even if it doesn’t look like real life. So a highly constructed film text can twist things so that they come closer to real experiences or it can produce something very plastic and false. • Realist style can also be highly manipulative of reality. Think about how documentaries allege to be simply documenting the world, but are often highly formulated. And sometimes, a lot of stylizing can go into making something look “real” or “natural.”
It’s all about FORM • The raw materials of the world, the subject matter, the object(s) under view, or CONTENT, can be shown in a million different ways, depending on the FORM of the representation. • In other words, content = form. • “The WAY a story is told IS the story.” • The way an object is photographed is the way that object as content is understood. • “One way of understanding better what a film is trying to say is to know how it is saying it” (André Bazin 7).
Just remember… • Most of the time, we consume “content” without being conscious of how it’s been formed, without realizing that content is form. • There are a million different ways to photograph something. • We all understand the language of film and interpret the messages it delivers, but we don’t necessary know how to speak the language. • THE GRAMMAR OF FILM
WHO shapes the photographs? Cinematographer/D.O.P • A cinematographer (from 'cinema photographer') is one photographing with a motion picture camera (the art and science of which is known as cinematography). • The title is generally equivalent to director of photography (DP or DoP), used to designate a chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film, responsible for achieving artistic and technical decisions related to the image. The cinematographer is sometimes also the camera operator. • We could say, generally, that the cinematographer deals with the photography and the director with mise en scène.
How to shoot an object: Shots • The extreme long shot (establishing shot) • The long shot – distance between audience and stage in live theatre • The full shot – barely includes the human body in full • The medium shot – contains a figure from the knees to waist up (good for carrying movement and for dialogue; usually a two or three shot, or over the shoulder shot) • The close-up –face or object - elevates the importance of things under focus • The extreme close-up – a part of a person or thing • * Deep-focus shot is usually a variation on the long or extreme long shot. Consists of a number of focal distances and photographed in depth; captures objects as close, medium, and long range simultaneously and all in sharp focus.
Angles (where you put the camera) • The angle at which an object/scene is photographed tells us a lot about HOW we’re supposed to read the MEANING of the image. The angle is said to provide an “authorial commentary on the subject matter.” • Bird’s eye view • The High angle • The eye-level shot • The Low angle • Worm’s eye • The oblique angle
Lighting • Lighting a film is crucial to its narrative (how it tells the story). • High-Key: comedies/musicals • Straightforward/Bright • High-Contrast: tragedies/melodramas. • Low-Key: mysteries, thrillers • -Diffused shadows/eerie atmospheric • Shots/films can also integrate these. • Light/Dark symbolism? • Realists/Formalists?
Lighting the Subject • Four ways to light the same subject: • Lighting from Below • Lighting from Above • Backlighting • Overexposure
Colour (1940s on…) • Most films have a colour palette/design/scheme. • Some films that are very painterly, which means that everything within the film is highly stylized in colour and design. • Some films change in colours or hues throughout to help tell the story, as well as to set the very mood of the film. • (Eg. Traffic; Aviator) • “Colour tends to be an subconscious element in film. It’s strongly emotional in it appeal, expressive and atmospheric rather than conspicuous or intellectual.” • Today, most popular films are highly stylized in their colour and design, from the fonts chosen in the opening titles to the design of the DVD windows. • Colour is highly symbolic: cool/warm/bright/grey.
lenses /filters • Standard lens: non-distorted range • 1. Telephoto lens (paparazzi lens): close shots from far away • Don’t want to be close to object; don’t want an object to know you’re close. Or, for deliberate blurring. Can adjust blurring within same shot to change focus. Decreases sense of distance between viewer and object. • Long lens – allow for selective focusing and moving between planes of focus in the same shot. • 2. Wide-angled lens: short focal lengths; wide angles of view. For deep-focus shots: maintain sharpness of focus on all distance planes. Can exaggerate image: people standing close look far apart. • 3. Fish-eye lens (crystal ball lens) – hyper-distortion. • Filters: suppress or heighten certain colours. • Typically, a film that emphasizes colour to help tell the story combines the colour choices of objects and scenes with their augmentation through coloured filters. • Lens and Filters can be used to change how actors look, and the general aesthetic of the film . • Eg. Contract clauses for soft-focus lens.
Group Effort • Filmmaking is a collaborative effort. The director can have a very precise vision and (try to) control all aspects of the film (Hitchcock). Or, s/he can work very collaboratively with others. • Some directors leave composition, angles, and lenses up to the cinematographer, and concern themselves more with script and acting. Many do not. • The best directors work very closely with the cinematographer, using their expertise to achieve the desired look/shot/feel/meaning. The director might have an idea what s/he wants, but the expert cinematographer knows how to make it happen.
Mise en scène • Not only must we understand how objects are photographed, we must consider the arrangement of the objects themselves. • This arranging and placing is called mise en scène. • In Theatre: “placing on stage.” Arranging of objects within a given, and set, three dimensional space. The stage space is a continuation of the theatre space. • In Film: bit more complicated. Three dimensional space is converted into a two-dimensional IMAGE of the real thing. • So the style of a film is produced through the manipulation of real objects and then a further manipulation of these objects through the various techniques of photography.
The Frame • Films are a series of images that can be read separately, but ultimately, to be understood, must be thought of in the context of the entire film. • “The sensitive director is just as concerned with what’s left out of the frame as with what’s included. The frame selects and delimits the subject, editing out all irrelevancies and presenting us with only a ‘piece’ of reality…The frame is thus essentially an isolating device, a technique that permits the director to confer special attention on what might be overlooked in a wider context” (43). • The frame/camera as voyeuristic enclosure. The frame/camera as point of view. The frame as passive commentator. The frame/camera as active participant.
Size Matters… • Unlike the painter or still photographer, the filmmaker fits the world to a single sized frame, as she/he can’t move from a vertical to a horizontal frame. The dimensions or aspect ration remain the same through the film. • The dimensions of a frame/screen are called its Aspect Ratio. • Most films are shot in one of two aspect ratios: the standard (1.85:1) or the widescreen (2.35:1)
BLUE: Widescreen Film RED: Standard Film GREEN: Television
The Two-Dimensional Space Placement/Arrangement • What else matters: Where an object is placed in the frame. • Centre/top/sides/bottom/edges. • How could this placing be used for • symbolic or metaphoric purposes? • Who/what takes up the most space? How do they/it do this? • When might a director place the most important character off frame? • What is suggested to be happening off-frame can be as important as what happens on-frame.
Composition & Design • Like painting: “the arrangement of shapes, colours, lines, and textures on a flat rectangular surface” (50). • Classical Cinema or Classical Composition: • Arrangement of Objects held in Balance/Harmonious Equilibrium • Filmmakers can then play with this balance or equilibrium in order to unsettle and produce certain psychological effects on the audience. Filmmakers can thus intentionally make us uncomfortable by playing with these conventions.
Made you look… • “The human eye automatically attempts to harmonize the formal elements of a composition into a unified whole…In most cases….the eye doesn’t wander promiscuously over the surface of an image but is guided to specific areas in sequence” (53). How does the director make us look at certain things?
The Dominant. • Any formal element can be used a dominant: a shape, a line, a texture, and so on. Or, it can be movement itself, or an item that has intrinsic dramatic interest (gun). An item with intrinsic interest, like a gun, might occupy a small space on the screen but is dramatically significant enough to immediately draw and keep our attention. Movement is the easiest way to create interest on screen. • Intentional Visual Confusion • Scanning from left to right • Upper weighed heavier than lower (landscape seldom divided horizontally at mid-point) – 57 • Protagonist filmed and placed in very different ways than other characters.
“Some of the most expressive cinematic effects can be achieved precisely through this tension between the compositional elements of an image and its dramatic context” (58). • Subsidiary Contrasts (areas of diminishing interest). • (eg. Blood on fresh grass) • Design: Shapes (X, Os) /Lines (vertical/horizontal)/Textures all help to shape the narrative in particular ways exploiting certain psychological impulses in viewers. • (Character is imprisoned when shadow of blinds falls over in vertical bars over fact). • Well made films tend to employ all these elements to tell the story in a richer and more influential way.
The Three-Dimensional Space Territorial Space – going 3D • “Space is a medium of communication, and the way we respond to objects and people within a given area is a constant source of information in life as well as movies…Space is one of the principal mediums of communication in film” (60). • Foreground/Midground/Background • (speak to each other) • Positioning – how close/far are “we” to the object/figure? • Tightly framed/Loosely framed – p. 67 • – corresponding to which style, generally, for each?
Negotiating Space/Claiming Territory • More power = more space (my space) • Less power = less space (your space) • Filmmakers tend to give more space to the figures they want to emphasize, regardless of their social power in reality. • Sharing Space/Changing space • the director can suggest dramatic changes within one scene through the changing of characters in the space of the shot/frame. • When a character leaves the space or enters the space of the frame, the director can either adjust so that their absence is not felt or maintain the shot so that a void is felt. 68
Proxemic Patterns • The Intimate • The Personal • The Social • The Public Distance • Think about how much we abide by these rules and how easily it is for filmmakers to exploit these unspoken rules of spatial negotiation for dramatic/narrative purposes. • Public space; private space. • The movie theatre. The men’s bathroom. Public transportation. • Applies to characters within film AND to our relation to them as viewers. How close/far we feel. • “Long shots for comedy, close-ups for tragedy.”
Positioning the actor… • Full front – facing the camera (rare) • The quarter turn (most favoured) • Profile (lost/unaware) • Three-quarter turn (more anonymous) • Back to camera (alienation).
Open & Closed Forms • Open Form (realist): informal, unobtrusive compositions/simple techniques to produce sense of spontaneity – doesn’t look planned out. Frame de-emphasized. Dramatic action leads narrative. • Closed Form (formalist): stylized, don’t have an accidental, discovered look – rich, compelling images that look carefully designed and thought out . Frame is obvious, like watching a series of paintings. Design and drama tells the story. • “Most movies use both open and closed forms, depending on the specific dramatic context.”
Most of what we’re learning here is what we already interpret when we watch films, we just don’t always realize the amount of planning and designed that goes into each shot and scene in order to convey meaning through moving images in a particular space.
Screenings… • The Office (UK) & The Office (US) • No Country for Old Men • (Ethan Cohen 2007)