Project 4. Camera Angles

The camera angle refers to the position from which the camera, and therefore the audience,
views the subject of the shot. (When I refer to the subject of the shot I mean ‘the thing which
we are primarily looking at’ – it may be a person, plant or inanimate object.)
There are some technical rules that guide the positioning of the camera and therefore the
choice of camera angles, but for now we will concentrate on the effect and meaning of
different angles and how this may affect the feel of a shot.
Definitions
While talking about camera angles it will be useful to understand the following terms.:
-L/A, Low Angle
A shot taken from below the eyeline of the
subject, or where there is no obvious eyeline from
a position that is ‘looking up.’
-H/A, High Angle
A shot taken from above the eyeline of the
subject, or where there is no obvious eyeline from
a position that is ‘looking down.’
-Canted Frame
(also known as a Dutch angle)
The camera is angled horizontally, so that the
‘normal’ perspective is tilted, e.g. the horizon may
run diagonally across the frame.
-POV Point of View
A shot that represents a subjective viewpoint. It
is understood by the audience to represent a
character’s vision.
In the subjective sequence you produced for Project 3, the camera angle was dictated by the
position of ‘your’ eyes, that is, the eyes of the unseen character whose point of view (POV)
the audience was sharing.
The camera angle provided information about where the character was, whether he was
standing or sitting, and where he was looking. In each of these shots you were able to add
nuance and suggest intensity or emotion through the size of the frame but your decision
about where to place the camera was limited.
In this subjective sequence another camera angle, which didn’t match the POV of the unseen
character, may have suggested another character in the room. The camera angle of these
shots would provide information about them.
For instance a low angle shot – with the
camera near the floor looking up at the
character – may represent a drunken friend
sprawled on the floor.
A high angle – looking down on the
character from behind – may represent
someone standing in the doorway.
Objective angles
In a sequence that includes objective shots the choice of where to place the camera is
greater. The motivation for the camera angle is not directly dictated by the action (as it was
when the character defined their own POV). The angle is motivated by an objective vision of
how the scene should be viewed.
The angle no longer indicates what a character is seeing but how the audience should see
the scene. The camera angle influences how everything within the shot and scene is
perceived.
-The same sequence can feel very different when viewed from different angles.
At eye level the scene seems quite ‘normal’. The action is fairly flat and the angle itself gives little away.
-The high angle makes the same scene appear more dynamic and exciting. The character
seems less powerful and significant; there may be some threat from a bigger force.
-The low angle shot is also more dynamic and exciting than the eye level. Here the character
seems more powerful; the sense of threat is more likely to come from within the scene,
possibly from the character herself.
Try to find good examples of camera angles used to create atmosphere or alter the meaning
of a scene or shot. As you watch consider whether the angle affects:
Viewpoint
– does it indicate a specific POV?
Relationship
– does it change your relationship with the characters on screen?
Status
– does it indicate the status of the character on screen?
Suspense
– does it create suspense, tension or expectation? How?
Mood
– does it create a particular feeling or mood?
Make notes and, if possible, upload clips or stills to your blog to illustrate them.
 
1. A Clockwork Orange ( dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1971 )
In particular in this sequence at 02.35 onwards, Patrick Magee plays the writer, who was a victim of Alex’s ( Malcolm MacDowell ) previous violence to him and his late wife. A political activist, the writer takes in Alex, after realising he is a victim of a particular prison reform. Only to discover upon hearing Alex chanting “Singin’ in the Rain” whilst in the bath, a song he sang whilst perpetrating the violence against them previously. (1)
a_clockwork_orange_19
Viewpoint
– does it indicate a specific POV?
The angle, an extremely low angle looking ninety degrees up at the writer as he (over)acts  horror upon this discovery. Superlative but also extremely effective, to over-emphasize the moment.
Relationship
– does it change your relationship with the characters on screen?
Previously the writer was sympathetic to Alex, allowing the latter to feel at home, although he knew exactly where he was, therefore, inadvertantly giving the game away and singing the tune that incriminates Alex beyond doubt. As the film cleverly exploits the viewer’s emotion to sympathise the abhorrent protagonist, it is at this moment, one feels the threat radiated by the writer.
Status
– does it indicate the status of the character on screen?
The apparent friend to Alex, clearly changes course to be that of a foe. The action leans towards a bitter character, finally able to commit vengeance.
Suspense
– does it create suspense, tension or expectation? How?
Very much so. It portrays the true horror of realising a moment of vengeance, the flood of emotion of being able to carry out revenge against the former antagonist. We sympathise the true horror of what has happened to the victim, this angle clarifies the sheer horror of it.
Mood
– does it create a particular feeling or mood?
The first forty five minutes of A Clockwork Orange display in graphic detail, in true cartoon form, how the protagonist Alex commits wanton violence against society. This moment is the crux of retribution, not only for  the writer character, but also that of the future society itself.

Ewan McGregor as Renton in this classic nineties film about the drug scene in Edinburgh has many moments of great camera angles and interesting frames, but the sequence where he overdoses and sinks into the floor, accompanied by Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” is astonishing and striking. From this view we see Swanney ( Peter Mullan ) looking down at him, almost as if Renton were in the early stages of his burial grave, and he says “Perhaps sir would like me to call for a taxi!” (2)
11vkyrm
Viewpoint
– does it indicate a specific POV?
The viewpoint is the subjective POV, indicating that of the Renton character slipping into overdose, looking up at Swanney and the mouldy cieling beyond.
Relationship
– does it change your relationship with the characters on screen?
Yes we sympathise as the main protagonist is probably going to die.
Status
– does it indicate the status of the character on screen?
It indicates that Renton is in trouble. Slipping into a grave like position as the floor he is sitting on, symbolically swallows him down.
Suspense
– does it create suspense, tension or expectation? How?
Yes, the symbol of slipping into a makeshift grave where he fell to the floor in this disgusting flat is poignant and we face a possible exit for him. The film, however amusing and charming is set in a bleak backdrop, with hope or future so strikingly missing. The expectation therefore is dread, but it is that dark mood that highlights the black comedy which is the movie’s main appeal.
Mood
– does it create a particular feeling or mood?
Considering the desperate nature of the sequence, it creates an incredibly powerful mood. Alongside the music, the scene is one of the film’s most memorable and pivotal, as close as the protagonist comes to his demise, it signifies a point of change.
Jill  ( Claudia Cardinale ) arrives by train at her home town expecting to meet her ( now deceased ) partner and walks through the station office. The camera watches the scene via the platform window and as she exits to the town side of the building, the crane dolly shot takes the camera up the side of the building and over the roof, revealing the dusty Western town as she steps into, with its usual bustling state. Again accompanied by powerful music ( by Ennio Morricone ) the scene is significantly emotional. One of my favourite sequences in cinema, this “spaghetti” Western is a fine example of the depth of emotion that cinema is capable of procuring. (3)
Viewpoint
– does it indicate a specific POV?
It is a High Angle shot.
Relationship
– does it change your relationship with the characters on screen?
It reveals the harsh wilderness of these fledgling US cities as they are in their infancy. Jill is just being introduced to us in this scene, she is the pivotal character from then on. We have just witnessed the murder of her partner and his family, by the villainous Frank ( Henry Fonda ). This scene, however transitionary, is astonishing in its power.
Status
– does it indicate the status of the character on screen?
She is a tiny cog in this wild west tale, but we will follow her and her grief to discover who is responsible for the slaughter of her family.
Suspense
– does it create suspense, tension or expectation? How?
It creates a powerful atmosphere. The film is set in a harsh land during a harsh, ruthless time. Henry Fonda’s performance as the callous assassin Frank could be argued to be one of the most hateful characters on screen, the slaughter sequence is heart wrenching and this particular shot of the township is emotional and shows a sense of hardship that these characters endure. I particularly enjoy how immaculate and beautiful Jill’s character appears against the filth, dust and sweat of the surrounding townsfolk as she discovers that things are not what was expected.
Mood
– does it create a particular feeling or mood?
It provokes a melancholy. We know what has happened to her love, we assume her future will be of uncertainty and retribution.
Hunter S Thompson’s anarchistic story is brought to the screen with incredible authenticity, the film is infested with canted ( Dutch ) angles in many of its scenes to depict debauchery and hedonistic drug binges. The film follows journalist Raoul Duke and his attorney Dr Gonzo ( Johnny Depp and Benicio del Torro ) on an all expenses paid trip from LA to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle event for Rolling Stone magazine in the early seventies. Chaos ensues. (4)
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Viewpoint
– does it indicate a specific POV?
Using the image above for example, a view of a hotel receptionist as seen by the characters as they arrive, extremely intoxicated by various substances. The Canted Angle.
Relationship
– does it change your relationship with the characters on screen?
As the car journey across the desert depicted their binge of illegal narcotics, it is not really until this scene that the resulting disarray is truly apparent.
Status
– does it indicate the status of the character on screen?
It signifies both characters’ intoxication.
Suspense
– does it create suspense, tension or expectation? How?
The message of the film is the true horror of American consumerism, the dystopic American Dream, seen through the lens of a psychotropic influence.
Mood
– does it create a particular feeling or mood?
The film is a black comedy, the mood is for humour, in which it succeeds thoroughly.
REFERENCES:
(1) A Clockwork Orange on IMDB – accessed 3rd May 2016
(2)
Trainspotting on IMDB – accessed 3rd May 2016
(3) Once Upon A Time in the West on IMDB – accessed 3rd May 2016
(4)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on IMDB – accessed 3rd May 2016
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