Films and CompositionPosted: February 26, 2014
I’ve always found films [and tv series'] to be one of the most inspiration visual mediums around. A simple change of lighting can evoke a completely different reaction in an audience than the one they had just a second ago. Films are so incredibly important to modern life, and modern culture, that really, it’s about time that I wrote about them. Composition and setting in films are absolutely critical to how the film will be perceived by an audience, and that very composition also provides an essential part of the story itself. Every little thing about how a scene is set up must be taken into consideration. The lighting, the placement of items, be that books on a table or even the table itself, every little thing must be accounted for. That’s before we even get to colour schemes and perspective and angles. It’s not an easy feat.
And yet lots of films do it so well. (Granted, some do it terribly, but I’m not here to discuss those.) Those films provide me with endless inspiration for how to set up my own composition within my artwork. It’s important to me to learn about this, especially since I’ve pretty much fallen in love with graphic novels, and the idea of producing my own one day is just phenomenal. Anyway, back to films.
Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are two big name films that do the composition within their shots so well. I could talk for hours about the merits and drawbacks of every set up within these series’, partly because I love them both, and partly because I appreciate the work that went into getting just the right look for the atmosphere. Game of Thrones is another highly acclaimed name in the world of television, and it’s no wonder why when you look at the framing they use for their shots.
Another film I really want to talk about in regards to this, is the more recent “The Wolverine.” It’s not often that I find myself quoting critics, particularly these critics, but HeyUGuys endorsed the film as, “Genuinely feel[ing] like an X-men comic on screen,” and you know, I absolutely agree. Anyone that’s familiar with comics will know that they boast all kinds of angles and perspectives and colour palettes when telling stories, and The Wolverine has managed to take that, and bring it to a film setting. And it is fantastic. As much as I love Marvel movies, in particular, Thor: The Dark World at the moment has incredible cinematic value as far as composition goes, this time, The Wolverine takes the win.
Due to this, I think it’s appropriate that I show off some screencaps of the film, of my favourite compositional scenes.
The Wolverine 2013 Screencaps
Of course, The Wolverine isn’t the only film that I love based on compositional merit. Most of Tarantino’s work in based very strongly in what makes the most effective scene set up. In particular, I love Inglourious Basterds for just that. There’s a very romantic way in how he tells that particular story, which I think made a lot of people uncomfortable, because it’s not exactly something that’s supposed to be romantic. Even if it’s completely stark and brutal to boot. What’s always been so effective for Tarantino is his narrative, and how he uses composition to explore and lead.
Inglourious Basterds 2009 Screencaps
I also have to reflect on the phenomenal work that is Red Cliff, directed by John Woo. I don’t know if many people have watched it, but it’s absolutely fantastic. Again, I’m trying my best to keep to compositional value with this post, but my own interests obviously have a tendency to show themselves. I’m doing my best to keep away from going on and on about the storylines of these films. Red Cliff, however, has a story I feel like needs to be reflected on, if you’re going to watch this film and enjoy it. It’s historical, based on the Chinese battle of Red Cliffs, and as such, with a little understanding of the period that battle took place, and the things that were going on in China at that time, you can really feel the atmosphere the film is going for. It is well and truly an epic, and well worth the watch.
Red Cliff 2008 Screencaps
Lastly, I have to comment on Guillermo Del Toro’s mastery of composition, and how it’s worked purposely and wonderfully throughout his career, from Pan’s Labyrinth to Pacific Rim. Not only are they beautiful visually, but they’re imaginative, and they draw you right in and make you care about their characters.
“Much like fairy tales, there are two facets of horror. One is pro-institution, which is the most reprehensible type of fairy tale: Don’t wander into the woods, and always obey your parents. The other type of fairy tale is completely anarchic and antiestablishment.”
I love this quote, and I think it sums up his work far better than I could. He also said that he “Wanted to make a film about the world saving the world” in regards to Pacific Rim, which I absolutely adore, because too often, it’s only one country that saves the world from the alien invasion or the zombie plague. It’s so removed from what humanity should strive to be, but anyway, I’m getting off base again.
One of the truly great things about his work is how it leads you, and that is amazing.
Pan’s Labyrinth 2006 Screencaps
Pacific Rim 2013 Sceencap
Of course, there are a ton of other films I could get into, and I’ve done my best to stay away from the high fantasy genre because if I start I will never shut up, but for now, these are the ones I want to mention.