Spotlight on Cinematography: Frequent Frames

I know I’ve mentioned before how often you start to notice something once you begin looking for it. It’s like the phenom of being told you have a lucky number or that a specific animal is representative of your spirit guide. Once your brain has identified that number/animal as noteworthy, it notices every one it sees. I feel the same way about visuals in film– once I start paying attention to specific frames, they start popping up all over the place. So here are some frames that I have noticed repetitively lately!

Focal Points

This first trio of frames isn’t quite as specific as the others I’ll be touching on, but it’s something that I have found to be so beautiful and grand. Intentional focal points are utilized in virtually every single movie, just on varying scales and to different degrees. The ones we’re taking a look at here are monument-sized and are impossible to ignore. The size of the objects could easily dominate the frame and detract from anything else that is happening, but the skill with which they were executed lends a feeling of imposing awe to the scenes that are taking place.

Byzantium (2012) || Sean Bobbitt (DP)
deathly hallows part two 2
The Deathly Hallows: Part Two (2011) || Eduardo Serra (DP)
The Fall (2006) || Colin Watkinson (DP)

Perhaps one of the most iconic frames of all time, it would be heresy to talk about this technique without including the one that started it all: Norman Bates in Psycho. This moment has become rather common-place, which makes it all the more enjoyable when films offer a slight twist on it, as seen below via Iron Man’s mask in The Avengers.

Psycho (1960) || John L. Russell (DP)
hanna eye
Hanna (2011) || Alwin H. Küchler (DP)
iron man eye (the avengers)
The Avengers (2012) || Seamus McGarvey (DP)

Another common frame, this shot offers far less flexibility than the previous ones. A car is a car is a car, and a windshield really only affords so many options. The reason I enjoy this shot though is because of the instantaneous literal framework it provides. Whatever we already do or don’t know about the characters or the scene, the windshield frame acts as a picture frame, giving the viewer a look into a momentary tableau.

safety not guaranteed
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) || Benjamin Kasulke (DP)
whats eating gilbert grape
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) || Sven Nykvist (DP)
the hangover
The Hangover (2009) || Lawrence Sher (DP)

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