So I am watching Dogtooth, the first film of the Greek new wave – and it is gorgeous to look at. The film Martha Marcy May Marlene which I would also highly recommend, has been compared to Dogtooth in a way that it has the same clinical approach to visuals/aesthetic.
What I want to share are my thoughts and epiphanies of sort that are further confirmed by this particular scene in the film I will illustrate. I’ve seen hundreds of films, I think maybe even over a thousand throughout my short life but only when I seriously began to study cinema I began to analyze each film I watch – mostly my preoccupation lies in studying the images and how they relate to the story. The visual language. I think it’s one of the best ways to learn these things, is through conscious analysis.
So this image comes on. Pretty right? Indeed, look at the beautiful lines and how they lead your eye to her standing. Wonderful. I love it… the shot is held there for a while so then I begin to think, what is she waiting for. It’s not a mystery once you see it’s a….
Because in the beginning it was established that she was riding in the car and you saw this same car again a few scenes prior and who was in it and so on and so forth…
At the point where she was walking over to get inside the car, a thought sprung up in my mind and it was.
What will be the next shot?
I thought, will the car just drive off in this same wide shot? My questions were answered.
It cuts to
A nicely composed shot that resembles a medium close up.
But why? It was answered immediately.
You see, the beginning of the film established this particular visual
It reminds me of something I heard while compiling my next commentary featuring David Mamet. In it, he mentions how he saw the film Daybreak and the use of props in that film. How they were established in the film early on, then brought up again in the second act or so, and again at the end, reminding the audience of its importance to the story. Now I haven’t yet finished Dogtooth so I do not know whether it is a prop that comes into play in a much more important way rather than just being an element of a story (in this case being simply that she must not know where she is being taken to every time). But all of this is an insight of mine which I’ve come to see is something that has been employed in various other films. The idea of establishing something, then reminding an audience of its existence, calling to mind that it may be or is important to the story. Inception has done that with the whole totem thing.
Now how does this blindfold relate to visual language of cinema you might ask? And I answer, it’s all about the story and how every image, every shot must serve the purpose of the story. Treating each individual composition as a story in itself.
I came across an interesting quote by Pablo Picasso recently which I’ve included in the Advice section
Art is the elimination of the unnecessary
Think about these words and think about what I just analyzed in this scene, and then every time you watch a film, or go out and shoot a scene – remember this quote and look at how each shots of the given films are chosen and why, and think about how you will shoot, respectively.
If you look back at the first shot
Had there been no blindfold, how would you imagine the director or the DP would go about getting out of this scene? This could have remained for the scenes entire duration; the car arriving, her getting inside, and the car driving off. However let’s say, hypothetically even if there was no blindfold – you could have still had the same second shot of her getting inside the car
and have it simply drive off. However what would the reason be besides just showing her getting inside the car? Do you see what I’m getting at? There must be a purpose on some level, and that purpose in this scenario could simply be her expression on her face – sadness? joy? indifference? You may have had to compose this shot a little bit tighter to show that expression, or you could have cut to a close up after this shot. Though how would her expression play a part in the film’s story? Every shot has to be considered for the sake of what you’re trying to tell the audience by using it.
Everything I’ve written here is confirmed in the section Finding the frame of the book I shared here recently, Filmmaker’s Eye
Here is the section…
These are my own epiphanies and realizations, and confirmations of the truth of the cinematic language. I am beginning to see it all myself and I gotta say it is wonderful to be able to notice these things consciously, the experience of watching a film also becomes quite more fulfilling.