The Juxtaposition of Cinema

The late Roger Ebert is a renowned American film critic. Before his passing, Ebert was chief film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper for over forty years. In the realm of cinema critics, Ebert’s journalistic approach to critiquing films set him aside from other movie critics during his reign. From Ebert’s perspective, there was no “right” or “wrong” way to approach producing cinematography. Instead, cinematography is an artistic exercise that establishes a stream of interpretations. 

In 2008, Ebert published “How to read a movie”, a short article that allows readers to peer into his approach to analyzing films. Aside from critiquing movies, Ebert worked as a professor and delivered many notable lectures about film interpretation. Following reviewing Ebert’s article, his ideas regarding intrinsic weight, shot compositions, and cinematographic tendencies resonated most with me.

How to read a movie

Louis D. Giannetti, a film professor at Case Western Reserve University, introduced Ebert to intrinsic weight. Ebert simplified intrinsic weight as designating an area of space to incite emotional reactions from the audience. Intrinsic weight is also a stylistic factor, molding the aesthetic of a scene. Building on this idea, Ebert also discusses the golden ratio of placement. According to Ebert, a person located right of the center will seem ideally placed. Coining the term “strong axis” in a two-shot film, the person to the right of the center dominates the character on the left. This concept also applies to cultures that read right to left and top to bottom. Further, a person positioned left of the center shot fills the negative space, which in turn can be used to add dimension to the scene. The intentional movement of the camera adds dimension and depending on the plot, can completely alter the perception of a scene.

In short, I appreciate how Ebert describes intrinsic weight, dimension, and movement as nonabsolute factors. Art is boundless. Thus, some of the most well-received films consist of effortless cinematography. These methods add character to scenes. The excentric variability allows filmmakers to produce without restrictions. I agree with Ebert that there is no right or wrong way to take advantage of these factors.


Tarantino // From Below

Quentin Tarantino is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Tarantino is a multifaceted writer, producer, and actor. Django UnchainedPulp Fiction, and Kill Bill: Volume 1 are some of my favorite Tarantino films. Something all of these movies have in common is low-angle shots. “Tarantino From Below” is a compilation showcasing how Tarantino takes advantage of dimension by using low-angle framing shots. Also, the characters of the movies featured in the video break the fourth wall, peering into the audience’s view. Usually, these low-angle shots add suspense during a climactic, violent scene in Tarantino’s action movies. Circling back to Roger Ebert’s excerpt, by eliminating intrinsic weight, Tarantino goes against the grain in a sense that adds to the nuance of his films.


Kubrick // One-Point Perspective

Despite releasing only thirteen films throughout his career, Stanley Kubrick is widely revered as an iconic director. Kubrick’s films range across all genres, one of his most famous films being The Shining. Throughout The Shining, Kubrick tells a story of real-life trauma through fictional horror. Additionally, the one-point perspective dominates scenes in not only The Shining but also in all of Kubrick’s other films. The compilation above features clips from some of Kubrick’s movies. The one-point perspective of cinematography refers to when a character or object is in the center frame, converging towards a single point. By taking advantage of a one-point perspective, Kubrick’s films successfully immerse the audience in the story.


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