The great thing about literature is that you can imagine, the great thing about film is that you cant. James Monaco, How to Read a Film
The better a viewer reads an image the more he/she understands: Its physical reality What it means based on cultural references Its various sets of meanings
When you look at a frame, one of the first things to consider is distance. How much do you see of the character(s)? Is it a close up? Is it a full shot? Is it a medium shot? Can you see the whole body or a part of the body? A Place in the Sun 1951
American Beauty (1999)
In general the closer the camera gets to the characters, the closer the viewer feels towards the characters. This is why close ups are often used for: love scenes scenes where the character is suffering or fearful any other scene where the viewer is supposed to understand what the character is feeling.
As the camera moves further away from the character(s), the viewer is provided more information about them or about their situation. From Rosemarys Baby 1968 From Babel 2006
The further the camera is from the subject, the more distant you will feel from what is happening in the scene or to the character(s). lets the audience have a look at the subject in relation to its surrounding.
The Establishing Shot It lets the audience have a look at the subject in relation to its surroundings. It usually appears at the beginning of a film or scene to establish the setting or to introduce a film. The Illusionist 2006
The Two-Shot Makes two characters the subject of the frame. It allows you to understand how the characters interact and react to each other. Avatar 2009
Another thing you should consider when observing A frame is the angle or camera position. Was the frame shot from high above? (a high angle) Was it shot at eye level? Was it shot from a low angle?
A frame shot from a high angle is often referred to as Gods eye view because it suggests that someone is observing the characters. It can suggest danger and helplessness
Apocalypto 2007 The Fountain 2007
A frame shot from a low angle makes the subject seem larger. The Postman Always Rings Twice 1946 Citizen Kane 1941
The Dark Knight 2008
Inglorious Basterds 2009
A character that seems larger than another in a frame is usually the dominant character. From Double Indemnity 1944 From Rebecca 1940 From Gone with the Wind 1939 From Letter from an Unknown Woman 1948
The Departed 2006
A canted angle suggests that something is wrong either in the character or the storys situation.
Artificial Intelligence 2001
Besides shots and angles, you should also watch for symbols. Some common symbols are: Images of entrapment are usually shown through characters framed by doors, gates, or confined spaces (like closets). From The Kid 1921 From Carrie 1976
Pans Labyrinth 2006 Atonement 2007
The Hours 2002 The Ring 2002 The Painted Veil 2006
A Beautiful Mind 2001 The Departed 2006
Images of duality are usually represented by characters reflected in mirrors, water, glass. Psycho 1960
The Lady from Shanghai,1947 Taxi Driver 1976 The Matrix 2003
Mulholland Drive 2001
Black Swan 2010
Stairs, dark alleys, canted angles, darkness enveloping a character, seeing only part of a character are some images of imminent danger. From Silence of the Lambs From Kiss Me Deadly From Halloween From The French Connection
From The Sixth Sense From The Others
Light cutting through a character(s), lines which divide the frame, usually mark images of characters that are in turmoil. From The Usual Suspects From Blade Runner From The Awful Truth
Sweeney Todd 2007
Other Symbols Christ figures/Biblical References From Dead Man Walking Crosses From The Omen Pans Labyrinth
From Hell 2001
Inception 2010 Shadows The top
From Schindlers List Color Rebirth
Eyes From Un Perro Andaluz From Spellbound From The Blair Witch Project From Psycho
Phallic symbols From King Kong From Blade From Rear Window
Blood Destruction or desecration of symbols From Planet of the Apes
Slumdog Millionaire 2008 Trains
The Moon Water Roads From E.T. From Jaws From North by Northwest …and many others Trees
From Alexander From Superman From Collateral From The Ring The Black Dahlia
Other definitions Cliché- overuse of situations, symbols Voice over-a narrator whose voice is heard throughout a film Restricted narration-limited to one character Omniscient narration-changes from one character to another, the viewer receives information from many sources.
Auteurs/genre An auteur is a director who manifests a consistency of style and theme across his/her films. Auteur films are inventive and creative. Auteur films emphasize their uniqueness. Genre refers to a mass produced product of the Hollywood film industry.It studies the conventions of certain kinds of films. Genre categorizes films according to their thematic and visual similarities.Genres are not static, they evolve. They also create certain expectations in the viewer.