Camera Movement and its Relation to Film Theory

Film Theory can be a daunting subject to dive right into. I remember studying it in college, and some of the theories went over my head the first time reading them. I think it had more to do with the translations (a lot of them were being translated from French to English), than with the actual content of the theories in question. Once I re-read the theories and had it explained to me, it all made crystal clear sense.

Something I noticed, however, is that camera movement factors into a lot of different film theories. Sometimes it is directly connected and sometimes it isn’t. Since a lot of theory focuses on how scenes are constructed, camera movement is integral to its understanding. Some theories don’t deal with how scenes are constructed, or at least not directly anyway. Take the auteur theory, for example. This theory, in its most basic form, stipulates that the director of a film is the author of the film, and therefore has a certain style that resonates throughout all their works. This theory is focused on the director, but it should also be understood that the technical aspects of the films in question are also a large part of the theory.

Camera movement is a crucial element to any film. Camera movement can help us identify with a character. It can help us understand the psyche of a character. It can also help us establish the atmosphere and style of a film. Handheld camera movements signify a dream like atmosphere, or a documentary-style atmosphere. In contrast, a long, smooth dolly shot will signify a more structured reflection of life, a more calming atmosphere. Of course, all these rules are made to be broken, but generally speaking these are good guidelines.

Camera movement can help us while dissecting film theories. It also helps us to try to figure out what the director was trying to say with a specific shot. It gives us greater insight into a film. Nothing in a film is done just for the sake of doing it. Everything means something. If we enjoy reading a book multiple times to learn something new each time, then let us also view films multiple times so that we can dig deeper and learn something new each time as well.


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