When Film meets Psychology to create an awesome effect for the audience

So once again I will mention the fact that I am a psych major and that I found this assignment psychologically interesting. I had no clue how much filmmakers think about every shot for a movie so it can be realistic and compelling and just plain interesting. Ebert definitely knows his stuff but some things he said made my mind dizzy or I just couldn’t think of a time I have actually seen a technique in a movie. Like the whole, “Right is more positive, left more negative. Movement to the right seems more favorable; to the left, less so.” thing seems to be very particular and specific. I have watched A LOT of movies and I have never thought of the position of an actor compared to another as being symbolic of positive/negative or movement being favorable or not.

I can definitely see color schemes and angle as being important to portraying dominance and character because they just stand out, they make sense. But the whole movement thing… people are always moving in a movie. If a producer made every movement mean something that would be insane. Mostly because as an audience, I don’t even think about it. I don’t think, “Whoa the character is moving to the right, definitely a good guy.”

I guess what I am saying is that I believe the whole point of view/angle method is very workable. When looking down on characters, they just seem small and insignificant (“pawns”). When looking up they seem important and intimidating (“gods”). So I think that this angle method works. I even thought the color contrast method was interesting because psychologically a person in a paler light would seem good/dominant and more important than someone in the shadows. Also a person in the foreground would seem more dominant than someone in the background, this is just common sense. Why would the main character be set in the fuzzy and out of focus background? This is probably why superheros have a light shown on them in addition to taking up more screen space while the villain is lurking around in the shadowy background. These methods and theories make sense!

Then when Ebert wrote about tilting and diagonals and the differences and effects of them I got all confused again. The words “tilt” and “diagonal” seem like synonyms to me! How can they have different effects if they are so similar?? This made me think that I should have researched these terms before even reading the whole article!

Next I watched pretty much all of the videos (except Star Wars) to get a better understanding of techniques. (Of course I also had to do some googling to define what some of the techniques were so I knew what to look for in the videos.) My favorite videos were on Kubrick and Tarantino. Mostly Kubrick because I loved the movies The Shining and A Clockwork Orange and searching for random facts about each movie.

First I watched One-Point Perspective and immediately knew what I was supposed to get from this. By having scenes in a one-point perspective it puts the audience into the scene itself. The character is straight ahead of you and on a similar plane (not looking down or up at them at any angle) and it makes you feel like you are standing right with them. If they are running, you must be too! This is very compelling for an audience because it will suck them right into the movie and also makes the film seem extremely realistic. If you feel like you are in the movie, how much more realistic can it get? Another effect it gives is like how in The Shining you peer down a loooong corridor and it has that nightmare effect of never-ending running/searching/walking. Like you know something is about to pop out of a door near you or someone is about to chase you down that mile long hallway. So even if nothing is happening at that moment, other than a character walking around, it feels like something is about to happen in every scene. This makes so much psychological anxiety because you are forever just waiting for something to happen.

Next I watched Zooms and I was trying to figure out what exactly the zooming is supposed to do. And then the zooming made me think of every good jump-scare horror movie I have ever seen. When the camera zooms in on a character, it usually zooms out too. And then the movie zooms in you get to take a deep breath to prepare yourself for the zoom out because that is when something changes. Something moves or jumps out. Something is hidden in the background or standing right behind you. Something. And you know this because you’re a horror movie buff so you wait anxiously with your heart pounding. This is the effect the producer wants.The ability to use the camera to cause an emotion. Fear, sadness, whatever it is. This effect gives the producer a “degree of freedom” to limit the view of the audience by either showing only the foreground (mystery as to what is in the background) or zooming out to show more background. This is great for horror movies and good for intense/suspense movies (like many of Kubrick’s).

Third I watched From Below, which was cool because I could link it to the “low angle” from Ebert’s article. Tarantino frequently uses the POV from the person on the ground or in a trunk. Usually the person above is holding a weapon or is generally violent (threatening to kill the person under them). Ebert would say that the people above are portrayed as gods because they are using weapons or threats to take away life. I see this as the person above is bigger and therefore more intimidating/frightening. Either way is plausible and effective to giving an air of violence and friction. This makes me want to watch more Tarantino movies to see how these intimidating scenes play out!



2 thoughts on “When Film meets Psychology to create an awesome effect for the audience

  1. I think it is so cool that you’re a psychology major! I think you should actually include more of your psychoanalytic perspectives into more future posts. It would be really cool to get that angle because I know for me I view a lot of things with the lense of being an English Literature major. So, I would appreciate more of your unique perspective as a psychology major like you did here! Great post, it is clear that you really analyzed the clips you watched.

    1. Thank you so much! Sometimes I try to but technology and psychology don’t often clash. I will definitely try more in the future though! Thanks again!

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