What Do Band of Brothers, The Karate Kid, and The Enemy Below Have in Common?

Hej Allesammen Igen (Hi, Again, Everyone),

It is interesting to note, that while I have admired films for all of my adult life, I have never really considered the fact that there are several different names and concepts for different shots or compilations of film. As I wrote in my first blog post, I have directed a few short movies; while, doing so, I put a lot of consideration into the shots, frames, and editing that culminated into a final movie project. However, I never did go out of my way to research certain editing techniques and shots, I merely replicated shots or concepts that I had seen in movies. Now, however, I am a little more versed in the technical lingo of the trade and thus, I will dive in, head first, and try to explain the concept and meaning of: subjective camera, linear temporal montage (my personal favorite of the three), and parallel cutting. So stick with me, even if things get ugly (FYI they might)!

Subjective Camera

The concept of subjective camera is fairly simple. In Bernard Dick’s book, Anatomy of Film, Dick writes, “a subjective shot [camera] represents what the character sees” (56). In other words, think back to the time when your 10 year-old friend decided to film that crazy hill while going down it on a skateboard. By this, I mean he or she was actually holding the camera and going down the hill on a skateboard at the exact same time. When you watch the film of the hill, you see exactly what he or she saw while going down it. It is as if you were him or her going down that hill. The most common examples of subjective camera, or shot, can be found in war dramas. These dramas attempt to put the audience in the shoes of the soldier(s) on screen. I found several examples of subjective camera in one of my favorite TV shows, HBO’s Band of Brothers. You need only watch the first 30 seconds of the below clip as subjective camera is used only at the start of the clip:

Each episode in Band of Brothers follows the journey a different soldier in Easy Company. The above episode, titled “Bastogne,” is “seen” through the eyes of Eugene Roe, the medic of Easy Company. As you witnessed, the scene opens with the a shot of a wintery landscape, it then shows Eugene in his foxhole and then goes back to the landscape shot, in doing this, director David Leland informed the viewers that the landscape we are seeing is the same landscape which Eugene is simultaneously taking in. For those brief 30 seconds in the start of the clip, we are Eugene, we see what he sees, we hear what he hears; we even feel his fear. As demonstrated, subjective camera is very effective in putting the audience in the shoes of the character. We, the audience, become the character and for that reason directors may choose to use subjective camera in action films, thrillers, and war dramas. After all, isn’t that what movie-goers are after when they choose to see an action film or war drama? They want to feel the adrenaline, not just see it.

Linear Temporal Montage

Bernard Dick states that linear temporal montage is the arranging of shots, “so that they follow each other in rapid succession, telescoping an event or several events into a couple of seconds of screen time” (68). In all honesty, after reading this specific definition I was confused. However, I had the “Aha!” moment after reading about the montage Dick referenced from The Devil Wears Prada (68). I realized that montages are actually EVERYWHERE!  I mean they are almost always in comedies, such as in She’s the Man, the modern-day corny rip-off of Shakespeare Twelfth Night, when Amanda Bynes adopts a disguise in order to impersonate her brother. They are also incessantly present in martial arts movies when an ordinary person transforms into a killer warrior, such as in Mulan and The Karate Kid. Please forgive the fact this clip is not from the original Karate Kid, I searched for clips from the original film for some time and could not find a clip that sufficed:

As shown by the clip above, montages are just short clips which are spliced together to show a progression of time in a few seconds, and most importantly, they are usually accompanied by an awesome song. They also are extremely prevalent in modern movies. Montages are very good at setting the mood for the upcoming scenes, although they can definitely differ in the specific mood they set. For instance, in She’s the Man the transformation montage, sets a comical mood and acts as a prelude of the jokes to come. Likewise, the training montage in the Karate Kid makes us feel excited for the young boy who is mastering material arts, it pumps us up for the action that awaits in the subsequent minutes of the film.

Parallel Cutting

Parallel cutting, also referred to as cross cutting, definitely was the fleshiest of the “film jargon” for me to attack. Bernard Dick states, “parallel cutting makes it possible for two concurrent actions to be depicted on the screen without one being completed before the other begins  – the filmmaker simply cuts back and forth between them” (81). At first it was difficult for me to envision such a film technique, but then I realized the concept is just a little mathematical. For instance, action A may be occurring in location 1, and at the same time action B is taking place in location 2, the director decides to show the audience what is happening in location 1 and then without finishing the action or narrative of location 1 moves to location 2 and then may decide to go back which, connects the two scenes. Although there must be examples that better demonstrate this technique, the following clip, from the 1957 film The Enemy Below, illustrates an effective method of cross cutting (start the clip at 2:06):

This clip cross cuts, or parallel cuts, between a German submarine and an American war ship that has just detected the location of the enemy submarine. Knowing that they are not going to escape their fate, the German captain of the submarine plays joyful music both in attempts to boost the morale of his men and to show the Americans that he is not afraid of death. Dick Powell, the director of the film, was able to humanize the enemy Germans on the submarine through the usage of cross cutting. Due to the cross cutting, the audience sympathizes with the Germans when watching this clip, we are genuinely sad when we see the explosion under the water. Not all parallel cuts set such a empathetic mood. Most parallel cuts are used to build suspense, not empathy. But that is what makes these techniques so useful, they can be used for several different reasons and are helpful in setting an array of tones and moods for audiences.

Well, I hope my explanations and film examples have helped you understand the concepts of subjective camera, linear temporal montage, and parallel cutting. If not, I hope that you at least enjoyed the clips! Anyways, until next time, Dane out.

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