Jaws, Jesus, and Jets

Subjective camera- Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg

According to Dick, a subjective camera “represents what the character sees” (p 6). It is a shot in which the audience sees with the character’s exact point of view. Subjective shots do not always have to be from the protagonist’s perspective. Horror and thriller films have long used subjective shots to temporarily reveal the perspective of the antagonist. One of the most famous examples of this is from Jaws (1975), directed by Steven Spielberg. In this opening scene, a girl swims in an ocean at night, only to be attacked by a shark. The quick cuts from objective camera (above the water, filming the girl) to subjective camera (below the water, filming the shark’s perspective) add to the suspense and fear of the scene. It also allows the villain (the shark) to remain anonymous, which makes the overall movie more mysterious.

Associative montage- Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by Norman Jewison

Dick’s defines montage as a series of 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 (p 18).” In short, montage is used to compress time, and associative montage is a specific type of montage that is “unified by images” (p 19). The 1973 movie Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by Norman Jewison features a good example of an associative montage. When Jesus is in the garden, he pleads to God to let him live. Then (at 3:55 in the YouTube clip,) a series of famous crucifixion paintings flashes on screen. This is a montage, because it is array of shots that follow each other rapidly and represent a single idea: that Jesus Christ must die for the sins of the world. The filmmaker used associative montage in this film to show that Christ’s death was fate, because it was all part of God’s plan.

Contrast cut- West Side Story, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins

Dick explains that contrast cuts occur when “images replacing each other are dissimilar in nature” (p 19). In other words, a contrast cut occurs when the camera films one setting, cuts, and then immediately records a different setting. This clip, from the 1961 movie West Side Story, Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins illustrates contrast cuts perfectly. At this point in the story, all of the characters are preparing for a dramatic night—the Sharks and the Jets are preparing for a rumble, Maria and Tony are preparing to see each other, Anita is preparing for a date, and the police officers are preparing for duty. The camera flips between from one set of characters with increasing speed. The overall effect is a sharp contrast between the themes of love versus hate. (Clearly, the dates represent love and the rumble represents hate.) Other film directors might use contrast shots to show dichotomy of other themes, such life versus death.

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