Contempt was a great example of ways that camera work and editing can distort reality. Two scene in particular showed that the director liked to play with was focal length. Playing with perspective, the movie had many scenes that flattened the image, yet made it seem like a lot of space; for example, the scene of Paul and the translator talking to Jerry in front of the building and the scene of Paul going up the big roof steps to find Camille.

As mentioned in class, one fantastic example of a flattened image was when Jeremy stood in front of a building, almost as if on a stage. The long focal length gives no hint as to how much space is between the building and Jeremy, or between Jeremy above and Paul and the translator below. However, as he speaks, the camera is at an angle that still shows a difference in location of the actors by making Jeremy seem much taller. This shot contrasts to the shots before and after in this scene, when the actors are walking on the ground. There seems to be much space between the characters as they walk down the road, talking, in a short focal length. 

When everyone is at the set of The Odyssey in Capri, there is a scene involving a wide staircase. Perspective makes the stairs seem like they go on forever, but at the same time there is a sense of flatness to the staircase. As Paul ascends, looking for Camille, his small steps seem like an insignificant amount of progress up the massive stairs. The descent seems to be much quicker later on in the scene, however. A medium focal length makes the stairs seem like a normal distance, thus making it shorter for Paul and Camille to make it to the bottom of the staircase.

Throughout the movie, the director continually uses various focal lengths to change the space within the film.


One thought on “Contempt

  1. It is incredible how the effects of a camera can change our perspective of the space that the characters of a film are in. Using different focal lengths can often distort reality. What we think is a long distance when looking at the film may only be a short distance in real life, but we only think so because of the camera’s short focal length. I liked how you mentioned the staircase, because to me this was one of the most important settings in the whole movie. From far away the staircase seems extremely long and would take someone an ample amount of time to reach the top. However, we see that Paul does this in an unexpectedly short amount of time because the focal length of the camera changed which altered our depth perception. Overall I think this movie was focused on the misè-en-scene and aspects of cinematography rather than the actual storyline.

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