The Individual's Perspective
By Lily Ratcliff
‘I love you, too, but I’m gonna mace you in the face!’
The Darjeeling Limited(Wes Anderson, USA, 2007)
One-point perspective remains one of the most confronting cinematographic techniques used in contemporary film. Often applied to capture either a simple moment or pivotal point in the plot, one point perspective has become an attractive shot style for the younger generation of art-film inspired directors and cinematographers alike, capturing a visual filmic balance.
As result of this chosen style, shots of symmetry have become culturally popular with audiences too; with movies like The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, UK, 1980) creating an awareness of how art-film approaches to cinematography can enhance both the visuality and even commerciality of Hollywood cinema. Therefore, the regular occurrence of centred perspective frames has now become an integral part of many films we watch today, even if we are unaware of the fact of what shots have actually been chosen.
Most recognisably, the stylised frames of Wes Anderson’s films are now constantly associated with the term one-point perspective. His characters generally undertake some spiritual journey, in which each frame individually reveals more and more the plot and, also, more importantly the characters’ sense of emotionality. As a result, we can see that Anderson’s symmetrical shots serve almost as a reflector or, rather focus upon, the psychological reactions and tensions of the character. For example, in The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, USA, 2007) one of Anderson’s most visually complicated, humorous and beautiful films, which follows three detached brothers on an almost nostalgic train journey across India, the shifting use of centred focused frames between each brother intensifies the fractured nature of their relationships but addresses the inevitable ties that bind them. The Darjeeling Limited’s carefully construction of use of one point perspective frames incorporated with a mix of saturated colours and hypnotic soundtrack, in my opinion make the film Anderson’s most cinematically accomplished feature length picture.
Once more, the 13 minute short film, Hotel Chevalier (Wes Anderson, USA, 2007), explores the stagnant emotions of each character. In an underlying psychological fashion the individualism of both A Man (Jason Schwartzman) and A Woman (Natalie Portman) is prolonged in drawn out filmic procedure mainly by the respective use of one point perspective filming. Their identity is unknown(although, if having seen The Darjeeling Limited previously, one would have some understanding of both characters), their relationship obscured and even the setting is rather ambiguous but the use of symmetrised frames offers a sense of stability to this highly unpredictable situation.
Moreover, the universality of this style of filming is not just dominated by Anderson alone, Sophia Coppola is a notable female director who uses one point perspective to deconstruct her characters; presenting a rawness and realism even in situations that are uncommon to the viewer to generally relate to or that extremely visually lavish. Marie Antoinette (Sophia Coppola, USA, 2006) is layered with emotionalised symmetrical shots that present the isolating and fragile world of the famous French queen who is played by Kirsten Dunst. Whilst there are multiple and delicious focused shots of an array of sweets and feasts, Coppola challenges the famous ‘Let them eat cake’ notion of Marie Antoinette and instead uses a sensitised style of filming, which confronts the alienation and pressures of 18th century France’s aristocracy. Like Anderson, Coppola takes the simplicity of the one point perspective shot and transforms it into a highly complex and expressive frame.
Above all, the viewer must question whether or not if centered perspective shots are merely technical devices for just simply viewing the character or, more skilfully, the director or cinematographers way of concentrating upon the personal and engaging with the concealed inner psyche- the individual’s perspective.