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Camera Movement in La Grande Illusion

Page history last edited by Air Dupaix 14 years, 5 months ago

The film La Grande Illusion is a great example to use in exploring the use of well performed camera movement. As the camera movement page explains, Jean Renoir often uses long flowing shots where the camera moves to both follow the action as well explore the surrounding area of the scene.



Here are a few examples from the film…




In this scene, Renoir begins with a long shot to establish the area where the men are rehearsing a play. The camera moves down the length of the room in a single continuous shot. This use of “searching” the room allows the camera to act like a character of the film, exploring the events that are happening. Another view of thi camera work here could be that the camera acts in a narrator role by moving from group to group to tell the story as it unfolds. When the soldier appears in women’s clothing the entire emotion and mood of the scene changes. The men in the room go silent and all attention is directed to the man in drag. The camera moving over the men to show this realization and attention direction displays the reality of the scene. The men have been isolated from the world, and from women, for some time and this small glimpse of femininity does not go overlooked. The humanity of the soldiers is brought to life as the camera pans over the silent, awestruck room.




In this scene Renoir gives us a long continuous shot, following the action of the room being searched by German soldiers. This type of camera movement helps build on the “camera as a character/narrator” idea behind much of the camera work in La Grande Illusion. As the German soldiers explore the room, so does the camera, and we get to explore and learn about the room and the characters present. The use of camera movement to explore the character personalities and the relationships among the characters (between the French and German soldiers in this scene) is innovative and unique. Renoir moves past having the camera as simply a tool used to capture his story, utilizing its capabilities to dig deeper into the world portrayed in the film.




This is an example of a strategic lack of camera movement to create a unique scene. The camera remains stationary while the characters are seen moving through the shot. Whereas in the previous shots the camera moved to show the reality and mood of the situation being filmed, here the camera remains stationary to offer a mood of anxiety and frantic panic as the characters bustle around, confined not only by the walls of their room but also by the frame of the camera. The depth of field is deep and all the characters can be seen in focus, which helps keep each of the characters present and aware in the scene. The conversation being filmed is much more interesting with this setting than it would be if filmed otherwise. 


Camera Movement

Term: Mobile frame

In this film camera movement acts almost as a character in the film. The camera has several functions all directly supportive of the narrative. (4). One this Renoir does is follow character movement, he pans or tracks to follow. Such as Rosenthal and Marechal walking together after their escape. But what makes the use of the camera in this film more interesting is the tracking or panning when it does not follow character movement. A good example of this is during the digging of the tunnel. They have devised a signal in case of suffocation. It is a string that is tugged if they can not breathe. The camera shows that the string is being pulled, then pans over to show that the other prisoners do not realize it has been pulled. Creating this interplay between camera and story builds suspense. By using this camera movement Renoir created a somewhat unrestricted narrative.(4). Film Clip.


Another example discussed in the textbook Film Art: Introduction, very clearly illustrates the idea of mobile frame comparing two parallel tracking shots. An interpretation what war means to the upper-class and what war represents to the working-class. In the first scene Renoir shows a crucifix, the down to a milatary picture placed on an altar, then pans past whips spurs and swords to a servant fussing over the commanders gloves, follows the servant as he closes the window then shows the table ar which the commander sits eating his meal. The parallel scene is at Elsa's house. This shot also begins with a picture only this time it is of Elsa's dead husband.  Then it tracks past Elas looking toward the dinner table as she says, "Now the table is too large," Tracks to the table which is indeed very large. AQlone at the table is Elas's daughter alone wihtout her father or uncle which is illastrated by the fact that the chairs that were once occupied by the men are now turned over as if to emphasize their absence.( Stills showing examples"

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