Movie clip reflection


Movie Clip Reflection Assignment: Film Cinematography

Florida International University



In film, it is crucial not only to write a cohesive storyline, but to evoke emotion in an audience.

While directors are the masterminds behind the film, Directors of Photography are brought into

the film-crew to do just that, evoke emotion using “pictorial elements” (Prince, 2012). It is

through the use of lighting, longshots, and the imagery of water, that Directors of Photography

are able to encapsulate their audience in the films Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver, Citizen Kane,

Lawrence of Arabia, Inception, Road to Perdition and Life of Pi.

Keywords: lighting, long shots, imagery of water


Through the use of lighting, long shots, and the imagery of water, Directors of

Photography allow a storyline to unfold and encapsulate the viewer. The lighting in Apocalypse

Now, Taxi Driver and Citizen Kane allow for internal conflicts to be brought to light, while long

shots in Inception and Lawrence of Arabia allow a storyline to be captured in a single image.

The use of imagery through cinematography can also be a powerful tool to convey emotion. The

imagery of water can be seen in Inception, Life of Pi, and Road to Perdition.

A DOP’s job is essentially to evoke emotion using the “pictorial elements” given

throughout the plot of a film (Prince, 2012). One way in which to emphasize these elements is

through lighting. In Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now, Cinematographer

Vittorio Storaro uses lighting to create a duality between the characters Kurtz and Willard. By

casting a light in such a way as to only show half of the actors’ faces, it demonstrates an internal

conflict of “good and evil”, as well as a duality between the two protagonists (Prince, 2012). A

similar use of lighting can be seen in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. In the film, Michael

Chapman uses the lights from the surrounding cars to illuminate the protagonists’ face in red.

This scene not only shows the solidarity felt by the protagonist in the sea of brake lights, but also

the attentiveness to his surroundings. Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, uses light to emphasize the

feeling of oppression within the film. Cinematographer Gregg Toland uses shadows within the

black and white film to show the feelings of mystery and obscurity; two themes which are

continuously alluded to within the plot.

Long shots, although not always preferred by modern cinematographers, allows one to

capture an entire storyline in one single frame. Christopher Nolan, known for his use of

“anamorphic widescreen”, uses long shots in his movie Inception to encapsulate not only the

actors, but also their setting and surroundings (Prince, 2012). Similarly, Freddie Young uses long


shots in his film Lawrence of Arabia to perfectly frame a single horseback rider, entering the

frame, while allowing both actors speaking in the foreground to remain in the shot. As

immersive as long shots can be, many modern “cable channels crop versions of 2.35:1 film”,

distorting the image and not allowing the viewer to experience the shot as it was originally

intended (Prince, 2012).

While films are filled with imagery, certain elements can be found repeated in various

movies. Christopher Nolan’s Inception uses water multiple times throughout the movie to signify

a rebirth of the protagonist. In one scene, Leonardo DiCaprio seems to awaken from one of his

“dreams” in a puddle of water, seemingly reborn in a different dimension. Similarly, water can

be seen as a symbol of rebirth in Sam Mendes’ 2002 film Road to Perdition. It is in the final

scene that one sees rain as a means to cleanse or baptize actor Tom Hanks of the murder he is

about to commit. The rain in this eerie scene can also be interpreted as a duality between a pang

of sadness that actor John Rooney feels towards his impending death, while at the same time

stating, “I’m glad it’s you.” In Ang Lee’s award-winning film, Life of Pi, cinematographer

Claudio Miranda’s choice of imagery through water can be interpreted differently than the

previous films. Although it may in fact show a rebirth, the images of open ocean in this film

emphasize the never-ending expanse of the sea, and the solitude felt by the protagonist as he

floats aimlessly on his boat.

With modern technology, cinematographers have endless options as to how to best evoke

emotion in a film. However, the elements of lighting, long shots, and imagery, will always be

effective in immersing a viewer into the characters’ lives and story itself.


Work Cited

Prince, S. R. (2012). Movies and Meaning: An Introduction to Film (6th ed.). Pearson Education.

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