In Wednesday’s seminar class, we had a guest professor speak to us about everything there is to know about cinema. We had already learned what miss-en-scene was in a previous class, and I was eager to follow up on learning all about what goes into producing a movie. Honestly, before the lecture, I couldn’t think of much more that went into making a movie besides the actors and the storyline. The most important aspects of the film can go largely unnoticed if you don’t pay attention to them, but if they weren’t there, the movie wouldn’t be the same.
First, we spoke about aspect ratio, which is basically the size of the shot. Woody Allen chose to film in a wide (cinema) aspect ratio to emphasize long panoramic shots, such as the opening scene where Isaac is giving his monologue while we get a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline that sets the scene for the rest of the movie. Different sized shots are used for different purposes. For example, a long shot would be used to place accent on someone’s entire body, or rather to not place specific accent on anything. Conversely, a close up shot would place very specific attention to a person’s facial expression.
Lighting is also a big part of making a movie, as it sets what I call the “silent mood” of the film. This is how we feel when we watch the movie, whether it be anxious, comfortable, or even sad. This is not set by dialogue, but by the lighting of the shot. If a horror movie had soft lighting and no contrast, it wouldn’t make us feel anxious at all; we could be watching a romantic comedy for all we knew. What distinguishes something like a horror movie from something else is the fact that we feel anxious and scared, even when a character is just walking down a hallway. High contrast and lots of shadows puts focus on the main character, or the demon/killer, while shadows let our imagination run wild.
Music also greatly affects the feeling of a film a way in which dialogue can’t. Picture the cliché scene in a horror movie where the character is walking towards the door to see what lies on the other side. Now, usually when we walk towards any door in our house, our heart is not beating with anticipation and suspense. Ominous, non-diegetic music in the film, that rises in volume as the person gets closer, makes us feel suspense and fear, while diegetic screams in the distance, or an out of tune piano being played, complete the feeling.
There are countless other things we spoke about on Wednesday, and I was really impressed by how much I didn’t realize went in to making a film.