Film Interpretation (Through My Subjective Lens)

Subjective Camera

Bernard Dick defines the subjective camera technique as a “shot [that] represents what the character sees” (Dick 56). In other words, a subjective shot is one in which the audience sees through the eyes of a character. By experiencing someone else’s perspective, the audience becomes the character, which allows for the viewers to better understand what the character might have felt in the particular scene where the subjective shot is performed. An example of the subjective shot can be found in the final scene of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator where we experience a short scene through the eyes of the protagonist, Maximus (Russell Crowe) as he opens a door to reveal a beautiful countryside.

Scott’s use of the subjective shot evokes strong emotions in the viewer, as we know Maximus is about to pass from life into death. As the audience, we feel an urge to depart from the battlegrounds of the coliseum in Rome and enter into the afterlife where Maximus’ family awaits. Among other things, these feelings of urgency and drama are achieved through Scott’s use of the subjective shot (0:00 to 0:23) that heightens this dramatic moment by allowing us to see through the eyes of the protagonist.

American Montage

In a broader sense, Bernard Dick defines a montage sequence as “shots [that] are arranged so that they follow each other in rapid succession, telescoping an event or several events into a couple of seconds of screen time” (68). More specifically, Dick describes a typical American montage as “calendar pages blowing away as one month yields to another…”or newspaper headlines used to point out main events over a time period (68). In other words, an American montage is a sequence of shots that constrain moments and events into a brief clip or scene; it’s a lot like paraphrasing an article or writing a brief synopsis on an event. Below is an example of an American montage used in the most recent rendition of The Great Gatsby:

(A short example of Luhrmann’s American Montage technique in this film is posted to TLEARN.)

In this clip, director Baz Luhrmann uses an American montage to describe the rapid growth of the American economy in the early 1920s, pointing to the boom of the stock market. While Luhrmann’s use of American montage doesn’t fit the exact definition Bernard Dick gives, this clip is a montage sequencing moments of historical importance in America. This type of American montage differs from Dick’s specific definition in the sense that it doesn’t display tabloid headlines or portray a calendar flipping through months, indicating time acceleration. Luhrmann’s use of montage helps the audience understand the affluence and wealth of the 1920s and how lavish a lifestyle people were living back then. For example, the sequence of clips includes a stock market chart rising and the reference to bigger buildings all point to the growth of New York City and the growth of the economy. It’s obvious this economic growth didn’t occur overnight but Luhrmann uses a montage to summarize this stock market boom in a brief clip. While the clip does diverge from Dick’s definition of American montage, the clip also sets the stage for the cultural setting of the movie by using a montage of significant moments that resemble the affluent nature of the times.

Parallel Cutting

Dick describes Parallel cutting as a technique that “presents two actions occurring simultaneously” (70). In my own words, a parallel cut is a movie scene that shows two things happening at once in which the audience is aware of the simultaneity. An example of the parallel cut can be seen in the Wachowski brother’s film, The Matrix. This technique occurs throughout each movie in the trilogy, as Neo and his fellow comrades enter in and out of a projected reality (The Matrix) while simultaneously remaining in the real world. The bodies they use on earth are merely projections of their real bodies that sit comfortably in chairs on a ship in the “real” world. Below is a clip where Neo, as a part of his training, fights Morpheus:

In this clip, the viewers understands that both Morpheus and Neo are sitting upright in chairs on the ship while, simultaneously, fighting each other in a training exercise. It is helpful to know that both characters are aware of this experience. The Wachowski brothers use parallel cutting to display this simultaneity of multiple realities, showing that these characters can be two places at once. This parallel technique was crucial in the making of The Matrix films and the movies would not have had the same quality without it.

This entry was posted in Blog #2. Fleshing out film jargon and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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