Falling Into Film

In this blog, we are going to observe different film techniques and examples of these techniques from famous movies.  With examples including The Lion King, Spiderman, and The Fall (my personal favorite, hence the title recognition), I hope to present film concepts and define them with exciting movie clips.

Rack Focus

According to Bernard Dick, rack focus is when “the background will be a blur and the fore­ ground sharp; then the background will be sharp and the foreground blurry” (Dick 93).  In other words, it’s a film take where the viewer is busy with a sharp look at a shot, only for that shot to blur and the background to become the new focus.  Consider this clip from The Lion King:

From 1:07 to 1:15 in this clip, a smooth transition draws attention to small ants crawling on a branch to a herd of zebras galloping through the plain.  Here, this change in focus recognizes the variety of life that exists on the African Serengeti.  As the song “Circle of Life” plays on, this rack focus shows the viewer just how broad the spectrum of life is.  It’s a great way to draw attention to a shot, only to surprise the viewer with something else that was actually there the whole time.

American Montage

The next film term I will identify is American montage.  Dick describes American montage as a series of shots that “blend” and are “superimposed” on top of each other (Dick 68).  Essentially, an American montage rushes a series of images or phrases that play over each other in order to express a variety of events at once.  This montage allows multiple messages to be received at the same time or provides a smooth transition of related images to firmly establish a point or mood.  A great example of the American montage exists in this clip from Spiderman:

The montage from 0:30 to 1:10 is flush with a variety of images that are fading into each other and coinciding next to each other as scribbled words flutter across the screen.  However, it all provides information about Peter Parker’s discovery of his costume, as well as his motivations for dawning such attire.  American montages are a great way to provide vast amounts of information in a short amount of time, while simultaneously keeping the viewer intrigued and actively engaged.

Form Cut

The last film term I will present in this blog post is the form cut.  The key to a form cut is that the cut is from “one object to another that is similarly shaped” (Dick 70).  The hope is to draw resemblance between two images or objects that would otherwise be very different through the use of lighting, camera angle, perspective, and distance to the object.  A fantastic and thoroughly impressive example of this type of cut can be seen in the trailer for The Fall:

Although the form cut happens quickly, the change from an old man’s face at 0:50 to a stark desert with mountains in the background at 0:51 shows the remarkable ability to create resemblance between two totally different scenes.  The Fall is famous for its imagery and film mastery, while never using a single moment of computer-generated imagery.  The form cut in the trailer provides another “wow” moment in the movie while quickly transitioning to the next scene of the story.  Form cuts are great for such transitions, as they bridge together moments of film with similar aesthetics.  That’s all the film terminology I’ll be defining today, but hopefully these terms now make sense to you, the reader.  Plus you got to enjoy a few fun movie clips!  Alas, the joy of reading informative blogs.

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