Project 14 Camera movement

Some examples of the effect of camera movement:
• to create atmosphere – such as tension
• suggest a character’s situation or state of mind
• to represent a specific POV – for example using handheld camera with intentional movement to represent a subjective POV, or a slow tracking shot to represent POV of a person cruising past in a car
• a dramatic moment – the sudden movement of camera at a dramatic moment.

Find about six good examples of moving camera work that alters the feel and/or meaning of a sequence and add them to your blog.

Below are my selected examples. Mostly genre films, as I have grown up on a diet of these pictures and their specific uses of camera skills are among the reasons why they stand above the rest.

Jaws ( dir. Steven Spielberg, 1975 )

The famous dolly shot, previously a stalwart of Alfred Hitchcock in films such as Vertigo, Psycho and Marnie, here in the monster blockbuster of the mid seventies, “Jaws”, which uses the dolly zoom to extreme effect. Whilst relaxing on the beach, an already suspicious police chief, is shocked as his fears are realised when the shark attacks it’s second human victim right in front of him. By advancing the camera on a dolly track at the same time as zooming out, the subject of the frame moves closer as the background dreamily falls further away. Supported by John Williams’ startling music, it perfectly projects the true horror and shock to the audience. Not only has the shark attacked again, but in front of the eyes of the protagonist, who had previously spent twenty minutes of screen-time trying to convince the island’s committee that this was not a one-off accident and that they open the beach at their peril. It is the climax of the first act, the shark is not moving on, whilst there is food available. The town has to react. (1)

It Follows ( dir.David Robert Mitchell, 2014 )

The opening sequence of 2014’s superb horror film “It Follows”, uses a 360° camera turn to wonderous effect. A semi dressed teen, Annie ( Bailey Spry ) runs out of a suburban house at dawn, startled and aware she is being stalked. She stops in the street, runs further up the street before going back to her house to get her car keys, finally driving speedily away. The camera tracks her as she confusedly panics before deciding what to do. This movie projects way above its contemporaries as it packs multiple splendid frames and set pieces, but this opening scene is a fine example of a skillful cameraman and director at work. (2)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ( dir. Tobe Hooper, 1974 )

Cinematographer Daniel Pearl is the unsung hero of Tobe Hooper’s horror classic. The film deserves the crown as a superior in the genre by the relentless attention to preventing the audience of graphic visuals, but at the same time, one is subjected to uncomfortable scenes of a disturbing nature. The result is truly excellent.
The tension in the scene I have posted below is so beautiful executed. An ultra-hot day and the young couple are about to walk into violence that is beyond comprehension. My particular favourite shot here begins at 04.18, just after the first sudden outbreak of horror in the film. Pam ( Teri McMinn ) is waiting for her boyfriend, whom we have just seen beaten to the ground with a hammer, as she swings on a house swing outside. As she decides to get up and find out why he has not returned, the camera creeps underneath the swing and follows her as she approaches the house. Pam’s hot-pants are obvious here, but its the image of the approaching house that looms above her as she walks forward, almost as if she steps into the monster house’s “mouth”, that is the most startling. The beautiful blue sky is pushed aside as she advances closer and closer to the house. It is a perfect shot, one that is stacked with atmosphere. Pam eventually discovers further horrors that surpass the ghastliness of her boyfriend’s demise. Perhaps the last beautiful image of the film before true terror descends, a monumental and lasting image, in my opinion. (3)

Enter The Void ( dir. Gaspar Noé, 2009 )

Argentine director Gaspar Noé is famous for his French extreme films such as Irreversible ( 2002 ), but it is the experimental English language -shot in Tokyo – movie “Enter the Void” that allows a unique and continual floating camera style to truly utilize his vision to maximum effect. The film is shot entirely as first person POV ( á la “GoPro” ) as we follow a young American drug dealer whilst living in Japan. The scene here is his fatality as he is shot by the police whilst hiding in a bar toilet. It is extremely effective. The following scenes are told by his astral body as he floats away from his corpse to watch upon his beloved sister as she deals with his death and the horrific world of Tokyo’s under belly. (4)

Cujo (dir. Lewis Teague, 1983 )

Before becoming the world famous cinematographer that he is known as today, Jan de Bont is the driving force behind this low budget horror-soap based on Stephen King’s novel. The story, which is often accused of being rather flat, is animated perfectly by Jan de Bont’s superior choices of camera techniques and framing. Countless moments of run-of-the-mill shock tactics are enhanced by interesting dolly shots, angles and ingenious set pieces. Atmosphere is this film’s strength. If you watch the sequence posted here, starting with the rabid dog’s POV as the mother and child arrive, to the clip’s climax and action, the scene is filled with interesting shots that stack up the tension. (5)

Peter O.

(1) Film Art – An Introduction, Sixth Edition  – David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson (University of Wisconsin Press) p231
(2) New York Times website film review and interview with director David Robert Mitchell by Stephen Holden 12th March 2015
(3) Interview with cinematographer Daniel Pearl, 40th Anniversary of the film at The Housecore Horror Film Festival, October 2014
Gaspar Noe – What’s the Problem? by Steve Rose. The Guardian, Thursday 16th September 2010
(5) Nope Nothing Wrong Here, The Making of Cujo by Lee Gambin ( Bear Manor Media, 2017 )


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