This week, the class was tasked on reading the essay How to Read a Movie, written by American film critic Roger Ebert. One of the main points that resonated was to look at a still shot of a film, and simply “think about what you see.” Throughout his essay, Mr. Ebert was a firm beliver that analyzing scenes from the movie could influence your understanding of the visual techniques utilized to authenticate the story. Described as a “shot by shot” technique, by pausing the film to study the approach of how the scene was captured, can affirm the viewer’s emotion or aestheic reaction.
I consider myself to be a very emotional person, especially when it comes to ‘feel-good’ stories. Often becoming caught up in the moment, perhaps the reason why I tend to react so strongly is because I find the story to be relatable. For example, storylines that portray characters who “do the right thing,” in my opinion are classified as a ‘feel-good’ movie. These characters can also be referred to as the protagonist or hero of the story. In his essay, Mr. Ebert describes that the placement of characters within a scene can support their inclination toward a particular characteristic or type of behavior. In other words, the person on the right may appear to be more positive, favorable, or dominant over the person situated on the left. This is an aspect of visual compostition that I have not observed in the past, however, I agree with. Below is an example where the “positive” character is on the right and the “negative” character is on the left.
Another element of Mr. Ebert’s piece that resonates, is his statement of movement in film as being “dominant over othings that are still.” I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. The way that the camera moves across a scene can reiterate the expression that the director is trying to compose. In the scene below, the character is running up the stairs. This can be interpreted as him “running towards success” as he continues his training.
All in all, this piece was a great introductory resource leading into the study of film. Although, I am slightly familiar with who Mr. Ebert was, my exposure to his personality was that he endorsed a “thumbs up, thumbs down” approval meter to movie reviews. By listing the examples above, his essay helped to provide a better understanding on this topic by clearly laying out definitive examples of visual techniques. These examples were effective in understanding the relationship between the viewer’s perspective and the delivery of narritive information of the filmmaker.