Showing rather than telling is the challenge of all filmmakers. The composition of a shot, the movement and the angle of a camera constitute the bases of the aesthetic construction of a film. The majority of filmmakers then reappropriate cinematographic grammar, in order to develop figures of speech that are their own and that they can reuse while renewing their impact on the public.
The Magduciné has selected four directors and their famous techniques. Lighting through staging choices, the border which separates the spectator from the screen disappears discreetly, thus creating total immersion for the duration of a sequence where time is modulated, causes vertigo or injects emotions.
In his article “ Painting and cinema », André Bazin noticed that where
” the framework [en peinture] polarizes space inwards, whatever the screen [au cinéma] shows us is on the contrary supposed to extend indefinitely in the universe. The framework [en peinture] is centripetal, the screen [au cinéma] is centrifugal.
The cinema screen is thus always animated by the idea of a transcendence, of going beyond, of a beyond the frame which abolishes all limits to ensure the extension of the cinematographic imagination within our environment, and vice versa.
Voiceovers and their practical utility: the case of The Red line by Terrence Malick
With The Red line, Terrence Malick ventures metaphysical considerations, seeking what may be the secret identity of nature. The voiceovers come first, the director’s trademark, and are present until the end.
With one exception (the transcription of a letter), their function is never narrative. They are not there to tell, but to make people think, reflect, and benefit from an intentional referral, a direction.
The characteristic of a voiceover is to be out of frame. In The Red linethey are both here and elsewhere, express the thoughts of a particular character in a given time, but also what the characters could say to each other with a more distant perspective in time and space.
Each of the words, each of the questions, each of the statements has been chosen with the most extreme requirements. This succession of voices, this mosaic of thoughts, is that of the director. There is a notion of author. Former philosophy professor at MIT, Terrence Malick shares his questions, his own reflections. The voiceovers weave an intimate, personal link between him and the spectator, like a secret confidence.
From a semiotic and practical point of view, they sometimes reveal the subtext of the film. What is usually implicit becomes explicit.
” I killed a man. There’s nothing worse you can do. It’s worse than rape. I killed a man and I will not be punished. »
” Maybe there is a universal soul, of which every man has a part… All the faces of the same man, a universal Being. Everyone is looking for their salvation, like an ember pulled out of the fire. »
” We were a family, we had to separate, come apart, to find ourselves pitted against each other, each overshadowing the other. »
” You are my sons, my dear sons. You live in me now. I take you wherever I go. »
” War does not make men nobler, it makes them dogs. It poisons the soul. »
Let’s mention the most famous scene, the famous assault sequence. Monstrous on the technical level, miraculous on the performance level, it puts the spectator in front of a profusion of individual interpretations which provokes a state of stupefaction, at an impressive rate per second (the traumatism played by the Japanese soldiers is staggering during frontal attacks.) The voiceover, anonymous, intervenes here while the sound effects, the shots, the screams are suddenly cut off. It allows you to breathe again during the horror and the mastery of chaos, to take a step back, to attenuate the scene which was beginning to become unbearable.
” This great evil, where did it come from? How did he sneak into the world? What seed, what root made it grow? Who do this ? Who kills us? Who snatches life and light from us? And shows us, as if to taunt us, what we could have known? Does our ruin benefit the earth? Does it help grass grow? The sun, to shine? Is that darkness in you, too? Did you, too, go through this night? »
If we could mentally draw the use of these “voices”, intimate, propagative, confidential, universal, direct, indirect, ingenuous, ingenious, contained both in the psychology of the characters and in the images themselves, they would probably all be emitted somewhere in the universe by the same secret mouth… The characters change, the voices too, but the meditation is constant, and the source always seems to hold the same energy.
Perhaps they come from a universal, omniscient being who knows all of the thoughts of each of the characters?
Edgar Wright: The love of a shot at the start of the sequence
There are movies that start and win over audiences in minutes. In two shots, a few ideas for productions, a dialogue or a situation, some films manage to convey THE message, the one that every director wishes to convey. The message: you are going to see a good movie. For Edgar Wright, it is with a sequence shot that the director wishes to seduce his audience.
He does not use it in all his films, on the contrary even. However, his two uses of this famous single shot are now among the best known in the history of cinema. Today, of course, many movies continue to transform the essay, like Athena Or 1917although in this context we are talking about films shot entirely using this stylistic exercise.
What interests us here are the works that open with a one-cut sequence. We can quote 007: Specter, Avengers: Age of Ultron or The Little Handkerchiefs. In the case of Edgar Wright, it is Shaun of the Dead and of Baby Driver. One like the other, or even in general, the sequence shot offers a feeling of closeness between the spectator and the character. This emotion is reinforced at the beginning of the film and that, Edgar Wright understood it well. Accompanying the protagonist at the beginning of the film, over a long shot and without interruption, is to share this moment in an intimacy that no other style of filmmaking can match. For this purpose, Shaun of the Dead offers a double perception of the daily life of the hero, while explaining the issues, the tone, in short, everything the viewer needs to know. All this, in one shot. Moreover, it is curious to note that Last Night In Soho (the director’s latest film) begins in a standard way, even though its introduction would have lent itself perfectly to the sequence shot. No, for that, you have to go back to Baby Driver, a project that we perhaps praise a little too much for its opening sequence alone. Like Shaun of the Deadwe follow the character of Baby in a perfectly synchronized routine, choreographed and executed, perhaps a little too much, for it to be realistic (there or shaun of the dead seemed more natural). Now, it is always necessary to question the necessity of the sequence shot. Like the Jump Scare, it is only a tool and it is never wise to place it anyhow, at the risk of reducing its impact.
The Spielberg Face: a collection of emotions
A protagonist occupies the field, raises his head and a slight zoom, or tracking shot, caresses his face. Wide-eyed, sometimes with an open mouth, the latter stares at a point offscreen. This is a signature that is commonly called the Spielberg Face. Time is suspended and Steven Spielberg uses this shot as a mirror for us spectators, invested in the emotion that the characters release.
When Professor Alan Grant, who observes what are believed to be dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, we shudder with impatience at the idea of going to meet them. This expression also sticks to the face of Roy Neary to his Dating of the Third Kind. And in Elliott’s case, his confrontation with ET, the extra-terrestrial is of the same intensity, before being completely transcended in the final shot, where the child ends up looking at himself through our own eyes. Spielberg touches here a tool of narration which goes straight to the heart and it is what makes the force of this plan, however so simple to auscultate. Everything is played out between the viewer and the screen, a space that shrinks until it merges for our greatest satisfaction.
Is it fear, wonder or fascination? One thing is certain, it is that this plan is unstoppable in connecting the viewer to the characters and sharing their humanity, with a good dose of curiosity. If the following shot can often reward us for our patience, this handling of suspense also defines the whole approach of a filmmaker who gives us the opportunity to dream while awake.
The dive and the low dive in Citizen Kane
In 1940, when Orson Welles was filming Citizen Kane, diving and low angle are already classic figures of staging. Generally speaking, the first induces a lack of power, or scope of the subject, while the second glorifies it. For his first film, and an absolute masterpiece, Welles seizes camera angles to nourish the baroque style of his cinematography, like the use of exacerbated, hyperdramatic lighting. Plans from below, from above, innumerable, often very strong: cavities in the ground sometimes accompanied the camera, when it was not, on the contrary, suspended from a crane. This profusion of perspectives, a veritable visual jungle, echoes the different facets of Kane. She loses the spectator who tries to understand the essence of the press magnate’s life, through the journalist’s investigation.
The use of low angles is another innovative expression of Welles. His Kane, which he interprets, is certainly magnified by a camera raising its lens towards him. But the filmmaker combines this recurrence with a decor visible above the character: high walls and interior ceilings. The latter are all the more visible as Welles favors short focal lengths, having the property of widening the backgrounds. The message delivered by the staging is clear: Kane is powerful, from the top of his empire, nevertheless life, his resistance to the ambitions of the protagonist are even more powerful than him. And finally got the better of the tycoon’s whims. Apart from the involvement of the decor, the low-angle shot in Citizen Kane can add a scent of tragedy to greatness. This is the sentence, implacable, returned at the end of Welles’ masterpiece: a smoke which rises high in the sky, carrying with it the never forgotten childhood (the Rosebud sleigh) of a great man, to which he dedicates his last word. For lack of having found better in his adult life.
We would like to give thanks to the writer of this short article for this incredible web content
Cinematographic Figures of Speech: From Orson Welles to Terrence Malick | LeMagduCine