Sense of Space in the movies

I read an interview of Brian de Palma, in a magazine, a special issue about crime/thriller movies.

De Palma explains that he loves to film crimes, mainly for two reasons :

  1. Each crime has a witness, and he’s interested in the process of showing a witness.
  2. It a great game of directing possibilities, building suspense or having fun with image storytelling.

In a way, it’s already the subject of an article : here, he’s not really interested in the bad guy’s mind or motivations. And the victim(s) : not really either…

Then he tells us about the stairs scene in The Untouchables. Something like : “Someone will get killed in a station, let’s have fun with a complex suspense scene with the big stairs, adding other people and a baby carriage”. De Palma tells that it’s complicated, with many people and points of views involved, therefore he had to “explain” the scene, the space, the stage, very carefully… to the audience.

And it was a funny way to play with the iconic carriage/stairs scene of Eisenstein’s Potemkine!

 

I have three names in my mind when we talk about the sense of space in the movies : John McTiernan (Die Hard), Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai) and Brian de Palma. They take care of us, spacely talking. It can be with a map, a way of moving the camera, light, but also the way people look at each other (the house in the forest, in the 13th warrior, is a great example).

When you’re aware of that, you have one more criterion in your toolbox when you judge a scene. For example, in the end of Alien 3, we don’t understand the alien trap at the end, it’s confusing.

Do you have other directors in mind? And in other areas, like photography or teaching, in museology or music, what would be the “sense of space”, the “I take care of the audience, I want people to have a map in head before and during action”?

 

The tool I extract here is :

If De Palma likes crime not for the crime but for the images possibilities it gives him…

If I often like Art “not mainly” for beauty, for the paintings, for the photographs or for the poems, but for the words the artist says about them…

In other fields, what could it be?

When you love something not for the “normal” reason, but for the “à côtés”, the side issues, the interesting words besides, the…

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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