The subjective shot

posted in: cinematic language, shot sizes | 0

What does it do?

  • Ability to let the audiences experience the action as if seen directly through the eyes of a character
  • Allowing the audience to become a surrogate for a character, watching events unfold as if through his or her eyes, making them an intrinsic part of the story for the length of the shot
  • The composition can be carefully manipulated to match physical (height, angle, perspective) and psychological attributes (emotional subjectivity) of a character
  • It lets other characters interact directly with the audience, by looking into the lens, speaking to, and sometimes even having physical contact with it (interaction can be very powerful but also potentially jarring because the story is not experienced from a safe third person position anymore)
  • Danger that when used over extended periods of time audiences will find it difficult to identify with the character, gradually disconnect with the story (caused by the lack of reaction shots which reveal the emotional response of a character, audiences are left uncertain as to how they should feel and react) – ambiguities that fail to produce a sense of narrative clarity
  • Should therefore only be used under very special circumstances and then only for short periods of time
  • Provides audience with unique insight, if used correctly will amplify the dramatic impact


Examples of use

Inglorious BasterdThis shot shows two members of the “Inglorious Basterds” from the perspective of a defeated Nazi officer lying on the ground, which is visualized by the low angle shot. Not only illustrates this the corresponding perspective the officer would see from his position but also emphasizes the power dynamics of the scene as Brad Pitt is about to take revenge. Moreover the wide angle lens replicates the field of view of the human eye, increasing realism while exaggerating movement in space.

  • low angle shot
  • wide field of view
  • illustrates the inferiority of the Nazi officer as the positions of power and control have shifted against him

Life of PI
Shows the vision of PI looking up to his father from under water.

  • wide field of view
  • literal translation of the phrase “looking up to someone” who is depicted as a person of authority
  • water is so clear it becomes “one mass with the sky”, the hand is the only indicator we are looking from under water up to the father






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