Posts tagged ‘film’

May 25, 2012

Composition of a Good Film: Following the Rules

I know, I know.  When you think of the word “composition” your mind probably goes to an essay or a piece of music.  Because of my film theory background, however, my mind goes to the rules of composition applied when making or analyzing a film for its goodness or badness.

Last weekend, Kathryn and I were watching a movie of her choosing. The first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie consisted of multiple bombings and fist fights between lots of different characters who all had some mysterious (but deep) connection. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out what the story was. Kathryn insisted that I should just ride it out, saying that it would all come together eventually, and that it really was a great movie. (Uh-huh). I responded that if a movie’s story hadn’t emerged within the first ten to fifteen minutes, it probably never would, and therefore it couldn’t be a great movie. (I should mention that the last time I waited for a movie’s story to begin was when I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. And I know that as a film major I am not supposed to knock this fine specimen of film-making history, but that was several hours of my life I will never get back … simply waiting for the story to start). Kathryn berated my taste in movies, saying I couldn’t possibly know a good movie in the first ten to fifteen minutes. After some debate on the topic, I watched The Sound of Music and she went to bed.

How is it that my sister and I, who were virtually raised the same way (she is the baby, so some concessions must be made) and come from the same background, have such different opinions on what a good movie is? At the risk of sounding a bit elitist here (but believe me, that’s not my intent), the biggest difference in how we determine what makes a good movie stems from the fact that I studied film theory for two years. I know the rules that a good film-maker follows. (One of the rules is that you have to set up the story and characters within the first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie).  I also know that you can’t just break the rules to break the rules – you must have a reason for breaking the rules, and that reason must be related to the story or point you are trying to get across.

This has nothing to do with my degree, this has to do with me studying and understanding an art form I am passionate about. In order to create excellent art the artist either must follow or purposefully manipulate the rules of his or her chosen art form. In order to follow or purposefully manipulate the rules, the artist must first know those rules inside and out.

One movie that exemplifies manipulation of the rules for visual intent is The King’s Speech, based on the true story of King George VI and how he perseveres through a speech impediment. When you listen to the actual tapes of the fictionalized speech at the end of the movie, it is incredibly hard to listen to because of the stammering and stumbling. The task the film-maker must have had was, “How do we translate this discomfort visually?” 

As I said earlier, in film-making we have rules and a lot of these rules dictate how a shot should be framed. When framing a person, the shot must observe proper headroom and leadroom. And then there is the rule of thirds: objects should be framed on one of the two horizontal lines or at one of the four points of intersection. You may be reading this and have NO idea what I’m talking about, but I promise you if I showed you a movie where these rules are not followed, you would notice. We were created to observe art a certain way, and so when something isn’t right with a shot, our eyes tell our brains. (That of course, is the non-scientific explanation). It causes us discomfort.

So we have a movie where we are visually trying to portray the awkwardness the character is going through. How do we do that? Awkward shot composition. In many situations the film-maker breaks leadroom  and headroom rules to give the viewer a sense of awkwardness.

Speech therapist should be to the left and back some, if our film-makers weren’t trying to get a visual message across.

So I suppose the movie Kathryn and I started watching this past weekend could have had some reason for taking longer in setting up its plot and characters. I just wasn’t going to stick with it to find out.

To be continued…


Lydia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film. She is passionate about reaching artists with the good news of Jesus Christ. (Also, she has been wanting to analyze The King’s Speech for a very long time because it was the first movie she watched where manipulating the rules really “clicked”).

April 17, 2012

Cross-Examination: Profile of a Witch

Welcome to the very first ever artist’s pick! Like the articles, this feature will vary depending on the artist covering it.

 I’m Lydia. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television and Film with a concentration in film theory. So, you guessed it – when I do my artist’s pick, I will be talking about movies.  I’m a highly analytical person as well as being an artist, so a lot of my artist’s picks will be geared toward getting people to think critically about the art they are consuming. If you would rather not think about what you’re seeing and hearing, and just be entertained, it’s okay. No judgment.

Normally, I would be talking about one movie that I got something out, but today I’m going to talk about a recurring theme I’ve noticed in three movies that have been released in the last few years: Stardust, Tangled, and Mirror, Mirror.

So what exactly do an epic fantasy, animated depiction of a fairy tale, and an updated take on an old classic have in common?  These three women.



The women above are the villainesses of Stardust, Tangled, and Mirror, Mirror respectively. All three of them are intended to be specimens of physical beauty. All three of them are obsessed with physical beauty and use magical means to obtain said beauty.  And all three of them attempt to manipulate and control true beauty through cunning. In the end, when their magical means run out, all three of them essentially disintegrate in varying degrees of drama. These women are all prototypes of an age old archetype, modeling what a woman should not be.

 These particular female characters typically draw one of two responses from us: we either view these women as a cautionary and moral tale of what we should not be; or, we are angered that the character of manipulator, controller and cunning seeker of beauty always falls into the form of a female character.

 I find myself responding both ways at times. When I see these women on screen, I primarily see fallen womanhood. I see Eve, walking in the Garden of Eden, toying with the idea of something she thought was physically desirable, something that she thought would bring physical satisfaction, something that she thought would make her better. (As if God had not done the very best in creating her).  I see myself, trying to hold on to things I’d be better off without, trying to grab attention by having that competitive edge at work, striving, always striving to be somewhere other than where I’m at.  I see everything I often am, but don’t want to be.

 The problem I have with this response is that manipulation, control and cunning are not exclusive to women. You see, what the movies never reveal is the real enemy. It’s not a witch disguised as a beautiful woman (except maybe figuratively).  It’s the duo-threat of lust and fear instilled into people by the enemy of enemies: Satan.  He says, Don’t you see that? Wouldn’t you rather have that? You deserve it. Why won’t God give it to you? Doesn’t think you’re good enough, does He? He’s holding back on you. Why don’t you just take it? He says, If you don’t hold on with everything you have, you’re going to lose everything you’ve got. You need to take control of this situation before it spirals into something bigger than you can handle. The real manipulator, the real one grappling to control is Satan.

I really enjoyed watching all three of these movies. I own two of them and will probably buy the third when it is released. But do you know what I’d like to see more movies about? Redeemed womanhood.

Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll be the one making them.