Reading A Movie

For my first video assignment of the week I read the article “How to read a movie” by Roger Ebert. When I first read the title I was unsure of what to expect from this reading, but as I started reading I learned some really interesting information that part of me has noticed in movies before but never put much thought into it. Today I’d like to share with you a few things that really stood out to me in this article.

When watching movies, if I can’t become totally engrossed in the movie while watching I don’t bother watching. Roger Ebert discussed in length a few different techniques filmmakers use to portray either people or things in movies that I’ve noticed before but have never put much thought into until now. All quotes used below come directly from Roger Ebert’s article “How to read a movie” which you can find at the following website:

“To reduce the concept (Rule of Thirds) to a crude rule of thumb in the composition of a shot in a movie: a person located somewhat to the right of center will seem ideally placed. A person to the right of that position will seem more positive; to the left, more negative. A centered person will be objectified, like a mug shot. I call that position somewhat to the right of center the “strong axis.” This was an interesting take on the “Rule of Thirds”. I’ve only ever use the rule of thirds in photography so to think of this being applied in film was fascinating to me. To use it as a way to almost please the viewers eyes can really change the way a story is told through film.

“There are tendencies within the composition. They are not absolutes. But in general terms, in a two-shot, the person on the right will “seem” dominant over the person on the left.” This goes well with what I mentioned above. Using the placement of characters to almost give the audience the notion (even though they might not realize it at the time) that certain people might be more powerful or as he said “dominant” over the other is interesting. Especially thinking back to movies where this was used.

“In simplistic terms: right is more positive, left more negative. Movement to the right seems more favorable; to the left, less so. The future seems to live on the right, the past on the left. The top is dominant over the bottom.” The picture he used for this example showed it in great perspective (I’ll share the photo below). When using certain lighting and camera techniques the audience can be given the notion that the person on the right is positive compared to the person to the left. I really liked the example he used of “the future seems to live on the right, the past on the left”. That gives another interpretation of positive and negatives.

Photo courtesy of

Overall, I really enjoyed this article. It has given me knew ways to understand movies, and simple things like placement or characters that can help bring the story to life. Next I will be discussing some of the videos I watched on different filming techniques. Below I will also share the videos themselves for anyone that’s interested.

The first video about film making I watched was “The Shining – Zooms”. I’ve personally never seen The Shining but have the understanding that it’s horror? The zoom techniques that were shown in this video, show that the use of zooming in or out can have a profound effect on the scene. Using zoom adds an extra element of seriousness to the situation (The Shining in this example) that almost tells you that you need to pay attention. For me personally when I’m watching a movie and it starts to zoom in or out I automatically thing something is about to happen, either good or bad.

The second video I watched was “Tarantino // From Below”. This was really interesting to watch because I’ve never payed much attention to how much he used an angle from below on movie characters. This angle almost gives you a more personal view and closer look at the characters facial expression or emotions at particular times. Something I took away from Roger Ebert’s “How to read a movie” that applies to this particular video was that “A POV above a character’s eyeliner reduced him; below the eyeliner, enhances him.” These shots are used the enhance the characters of Tarantino’s movies.

The last video I watched was “Kubrick // One-Point Perspective”. This was interesting because all the scenes from different movies were shot using one-point perspective. Using this perspective it only gives the audience an almost narrow view of what’s happening in the scene so you’re only focusing on what’s happening directly in front of you, rather than anything that could be happening off to the side (at least that’s my interpretation of it).

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