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Camera Movement in 12 Angry Men

Page history last edited by Air Dupaix 14 years, 2 months ago

The Camera 

The camera in Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men operates in the film's rather unique setting. Nearly all of the film takes place inside one jurors room, and it follows the camera that is limited to the containing boundaries of the space in its documentation of the jury members' decision regarding the guilt of a boy accused of murdering his father.  Perhaps the most immediate consequence of the small space is that the film places the camera in consistently close proximity to the characters.  By establishing this close intimacy between camera and character, the camera is accordingly concerned with documenting the minute details of nuanced expression and reaction. As evidenced by the image to the right, even the most broad shots in the film only act to map out the actions of all the men in relation to one another, rather than puncture the encapsulated room by attempting to move the camera outside of the established space. Ultimately, the mise-en-scene enables the camera to move according to the dynamic of the characters, thus capturing and deepening the subtleties of the film's employment of space, character, and symbols


The interests of the camera, and the way it moves to capture these interests, are governed by a few general inclinations.  As the Filmstreams journal notes, "the camera angles begin to change as the film progresses from above eye-level, to eye-level, and ultimately below eye-level".  This change in perspective, although not exclusively adhered to, illuminates the increasing tension within the room as the decision becomes more psychologically and personally weighted.  In this way, the movement and placement of the camera is a dynamic representation of the events taking place, and, essentially, the camera acts as a character in its investment in the jurors. At sometimes in the film the audience almost takes the camera's place as it goes into close-up of one of the jurors. They then proceed to almost address the audience directly, while looking into the camera. The film ceases to be solely "12 Angry Men", but instead operates as "12 Angry Men and One Very Concerned Camera". 


The film opens with some establishing scenes of the courthouse and the courtroom. The introduction to the jurors room itself is, incidentally, an excellent example of both the camera's mobility within the confines of the room, as well as the film's employment of long, complex shots (shown left). This clip is a great example of one of the long complex shots doing a great job of not only introducing the set, but introducing the characters as well. This one clip is one cut, meaning it was filmed nonstop until it cut to something else. While much of the camera use in the film is characterized by its intense, stationary focus on individuals, the opening sequence in the room is meticulous in its movement, descending from a high-angle shot to document various interactions within the room.  This serves to map out the space of the room itself, as well as to connect the characters in their seemingly-casual conversations.




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