Updated: Apr 20
You read that right! I am not exaggerating when I say that one could mute the television, pause the film every five seconds to take a screenshot, and be left with a carousel of captivating images. Maybe it is the painter in me, but when I recall films, I always resort to a few scenes burnt into my head. Stills with specific character arrangements and gestures that tell the story. Let's take a look at a few so I can explain myself.
This is a pause comes at a point in the movie when Felix has just arrived at the poker weekly poker game after the group has just heard that he is potentially suicidal. The blocking of characters and compositional path through the image is truly reminiscent of Renaissance painting. Oscar downplays the situation with another character in the foreground. Then we move left and stop on two figures with crossing lines of sight. One, in green, not sure if Oscar is handling the situation correctly, and the other, in yellow, concerned; fixated on the background. The background where the final figure is eves-dropping on the depressed unpredictable Felix. Simply looking at the image, stripped of context, we would still be able to understand the relationship of the characters. Let alone the complex dual vanishing point composition. Also the washed out color palette in general allows for pops of color to act as checkpoints to guide the eye as we bounce around the painting. Scroll back up and take active notice of the blues.
I don't even need to explain the beauty of this shot.
You know what? Here's a clip from the movie. Literally pause it at any point and see what I mean.
Why do films today not have this affect? It seems as film technologies have advanced, directors have become more adventurous with their camera placements. Rather than planting a tripod on one spot and moving characters in front of it, the camera is a character. Directors focus on the relation of multiple shot rather than the beauty of any single one. Now, of course I am by no means an authority on film. I'm not saying that films should go back to a theatrical setup, but as from a painters perspective I feel that there is a lot to be learned from older films. A lot to be appreciated. Next time you sit down to watch a film, randomly tap the pause button. You may be surprised by what you find.