Theory PracticeReportCinematographerProject:This year I am focusing on the role as cinematographer formy dissertation project. A short film about a woman named Alice, home alone onher 27th birthday trying to cope with a deep depression caused bythe death of her boyfriend. Throughout the story she tries to overcome thetrauma by revisiting the memory of the accident. Through the cinematography Iwanted to showcase this complex narrative with the rawest intentions. It is anidea that has done before but in a stylistic notion with big budgets and heavyeffects which is why I want to delve into a different approach when it comes toshowing the characters psychological state in relation to the car crash thattakes place within the film.
After weeks of discussing different theories, I’vecome to a decision to focus on the theory of realism and how certain aspects ofit are in direct correlation with the ideologies behind the script. The scriptitself was written with the intent to rely on performance and dialogue to mimicthat of real conversations and real people, to show a level of purity that isoften not seen in cinema. I will also be briefly touching upon how feministfilm theory had decisive part in how the protagonist is portrayed.There are many ways to approach realism in cinema. There arethose who categorise art into “true realism” and “pseudo realism”. Andre Bazin,a renowned film theorist believed in the use of techniques such as depth offield and long takes to be truer to the realistic form that a personexperiences as opposed to the uses of montage editing. In his famous essay “The Evolution of the Language of Cinema” Bazinsays “The changes of point of viewprovided by the camera would add nothing. They would present the reality alittle more forcefully, first by allowing a better view and then by putting theemphasis where it belongs”.
His perforation of long takes is to let theaudience experience the world as untouched as possible, there are no cuts inreal life and thus using them takes away from the realism you are trying tocreate. Bazin believes that a technique like depth of field is similar to theway a spectator experiences the real world. Our eyes can shift focus making usaware of the background or foreground just as a lens would. For thedissertation I have decided to take into account of factors that Bazindescribes as true forms of realism. Our film will consist of long takesthroughout the film to maintain a solid relationship between the protagonistand the spectator and make them actively engage with the characters withoutbreaking their attention and to not make the film reflexive.
Bazin states that there are “those directors who put their faith in the image and those who put theirfaith in reality”.Bazin isn’t against the use of editing that is required tolink unconnected scenes together but is against the use of illusions such asdissolves. Bazin’s argument is that if a cut does not add anything to the scenethen why add it. If the cut is to point out something within the same scenethen it is almost an insult to the audience’s intelligence. The audience shouldbe able to decipher the narrative themselves instead of being spoon-fed. OrsonWelles’s Citizen Kane is an example of bridging one scene to the next andalthough it can be argued goes against Bazin’s use of optical illusions, it canbe countered that it is a required technique to illustrate the use of narrativejuxta-positioning. Welles uses the technique of temporal realism to bridge onescene to the next in a superimposed juxtaposition, doing this creates a newmeaning and as previously stated can be argued that its takes away from therealism as time is being manipulated from one scene instantly to the next. Bazinargues that Welles is not trying to deceive the audience but is using thetechnique to offer the audience a contrast by condensing time itself.
The genre of our film is a mix of thriller and drama. Thesegenres combine perfectly with realism as the narrative is designed to createtension and make the audience have sympathy towards the protagonist. Thespectator follows the protagonist and experiences the flashbacks as she doesand we move around the location with the protagonist creating a bond. The longtakes following the protagonist makes the spectator feel like another characterin the room.
The thriller genre plays well in the way that the narrative isrestricted. Just as in real life we experience events as they occur in a linearmotion, so will the characters in the film which will allow us to create suspense.During the early stages of planning, I wanted the film tohave quick cut montages to show how mundane her life is post-accident. This wasbecause I had seen how effective it could be to show a character’s normalactivity in a compressed amount of time just as Edgar Wright does in most ofhis films but particularly his 2007 film “Hot Fuzz”, where we see theprotagonist Nicholas Angel moving to his new job outside London in Sandford, weas the audience see a sequence of rapid images of him getting into a taxi thenon a train, a shot of a mobile phone until eventually he arrives in Sandford ina taxi. After analysing this scene, I began to realise that Wright did notshoot the montage to show the character moving in a condensed amount of timebut to portray how far the character is moving and setting up the events thatfollow towards the rest of the film. For example, when the protagonistis on the train we see a shot of his mobile phone with full bars of signal.
As he travels furtherout, we see another shot of his phone, this time with less signal and the shotitself is closer.Until eventually heis in Sandford and has no signal at all and the phone is covering most of theframe.This not only adds to showing how far the character hastravelled in such a small amount of time but it also sets up the audience aswhen the events begin to occur later within the film and the whole town isafter him, we as the spectator begin to realise just how isolated thecharacter. The montage adds meaning to the story whereas the purpose I wantedto use it for was to showcase the character repeating her morning routine.My original approach lacks the fundamental understanding ofwhy I wanted to use certain techniques. I approached the scene with what I wantedthe overall image to look rather than asking why I wanted it to look the way itdid.
The standardised use of cuts that I was going to implement in my sequencesis far too distracting to convey what the director wants. Instead of usingclose ups and medium shots for most of the apartment scenes, it would be betterto use long tracking shots, following the protagonists entering different roomsand interacting with objects. Instead of using long static shots, the use oflong tracking shots will allow the spectator to take part in the process.Instead of waiting for the scene to take place, they will be moving with thescene giving the spectator the illusion that they are a part of that world. Another theory that had a big part during the process ofdeciding how to shoot our short was the feminist film theory but specificallyLaura Mulvey’s male gaze theory. Mulvey’s theory states that females in filmare depicted to be the spectacle whilst the men are the bearer of the look.Throughout the history of film, women are often placed in roles of no controland are portrayed to either be a damsel in distress or to be objectified. Althoughour narrative consists of Alice suffering the aftermath of a tragic caraccident, I decided not to portray her as vulnerable.
Fragile yes, vulnerableno. It is unrealistic to assume that the entire film will be shot throughout inonly long takes, I do indeed plan to have a combination but shooting Alice isone that I had to carefully think about. I do not want to portray her as anythingless than in control. That is why the shots of her will always be eye level orat a high angle to show that she is the superior one and for the audience toknow that she is always in control. Only during the flashback sequences will I showher as vulnerable as that is a tragic event and it only seems logical to showher vulnerable, as human thus furthering the connection with the audience.There are many ways that film theory has challenged my wayof shooting and depicting characters on screen.
I feel that it has heavilyhelped me to improve why I should use different techniques for meaning asopposed to stylistic choices. Art is entertainment and all forms ofentertainment is escapism in one shape or form and what better way to providean audience with that illusion than to make them essentially the camera, tomake them feel like they are a part of the world I are trying to convey and togive them the illusion of control that most don’t experience in the real world.BibliographyBazin, A. (2005). What Is Cinema?. California: University ofCalifornia Press.Hallam, J.
and Marshment, M. (2000). Realism and popularcinema.
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com. (2003). Introduction to André Bazin, Part 1:Theory of Film Style in its Historical Context.
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Doughty, R. and Etherington-Wright, C. (n.d.). Understandingfilm theory. 2nd ed.
UK: Palgrave.Wright, E., Wright, E., Pegg, S., Pegg, S., Frost, N.
andFreeman, M. (2007). Hot Fuzz (2007). online IMDb.
Available at:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0425112/?ref_=nv_sr_1 Accessed 21 Jan. 2018.