Ebert: “How To Read A Movie” via Q. Tarantino & S. Kubrick



To begin, I found Ebert’s descriptive of movement in cinematography to be very interesting. He explained how the movement of characters, in addition to the movement of camera angle, can infer both positive and negative connotations. A quote of his that I found very helpful was, “Right is more positive, left more negative. Movement to the right seems more favorable; to the left, less so. The future seems to live on the right, the past on the left. The top is dominant over the bottom. The foreground is stronger than the background.” To me, this expresses that the dominant character and/or focus of the shot is drastically effected by how to director chooses to execute the scene. Ebert says, “Extreme high angle shots make characters into pawns; low angles make them into gods.” Visually speaking, some of us may not even realize that position has any effect on how we perceive a certain situation in a film or TV show, but Ebert explains that there is a great deal more to it than relying on simple dialogue and acting to express dominance or a lack there of.

Brightness can also be a huge factor of influence, according to Ebert. He explains how brighter areas tend to be dominant over darker areas, but far from always. Ebert emphasizes that within certain contexts, you can seek the “dominant contrast,” which is the area the audience members are drawn toward. In one of my favorite quotes from this sections, Ebert says, “It can be as effective to go against intrinsic weightings as to follow them.”

The two short clips I watched were Tarantino // From Below and Kubrick // One-Point Perspective. I’ll begin with the Tarantino video… I thought this series of clips perfectly depicted how the position of the camera can 1) express a certain situation and 2) influence the audience via a change of perspective. In many of those clips, and because the video strongly suggests that these were all going to be Tarantino clips “shot from below,” the audience members are able to see from the direct perspective of a specific character OR the low lying camera angles assist in creating an aura of anticipation. It causes some of us to wonder… what are they looking at?! When the camera takes the place of the object or person the characters are looking at, it results in anticipation. Exactly what are these characters looking at? Sometimes you find out and sometimes you don’t. It all depends on the strategy of the directing crew.

The second clip I watched was the video on Kubrick’s obsession with one-point perspectives. I saw quite a few clips from The Shining in there, so I decided to re-watch a few other clips from that older film on YouTube. What I discovered was that often, the camera does move, but not in the traditional sense of following characters around. The camera will focus on image or perspective of a character and illustrates movement through zooming in and/or out on that perspective to achieve movement without compromising the powerful nature of the initial shot.

Both directors are simply genius in my humble opinion. My favorite movies of Tarantino’s include Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, Inglorious Bastards, and Reservoir Dogs. My favorite works of Stanley Kubrick include The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, and Spartacus. I’m curious to know what my fellow bloggers deem their favorite Tarantino and Kubrick directed films!

One thought on “Ebert: “How To Read A Movie” via Q. Tarantino & S. Kubrick”

  1. This is a great summary and analysis. I love that you added photos to your post. The only critique that I have is to maybe add hyperlinks for the videos! Other than that great post!

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