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Camera Movement in La Grande Illusion

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Saved by Nykki Montano
on October 22, 2009 at 9:57:02 pm

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.




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. 

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