Person and Perspective

Kubrick and One Point Perspective

In a cinematic, architectural, and photographic world dominated at least since Bauhaus and Le Corbusier by a nearly mystical devotion to ‘the golden ratio’, Φ, “the rule of thirds” and other off-center compositional standards, it was still astonishing for me to see how powerful compositions in one-point-perspective can be and yet how utterly rare they are.

In these shots and scenes, Kubrick is able to produce both enhanced stress and haunting calm depending on the subject matter. The framing seems to directly amplify the stark emotion of the moment whatever it is – horror, violence, surrealism. It’s not subtle, but boy it works.

For our purposes, the visual is just a starting point. Self-conscious formalism is usually dismissed in screenwriting, but Greenaway, Von Trier, Wes Anderwon and Aronofsky among others employ formal structures to similar effect.

The novel Cloud Atlas was divided into equal poles this way and the complaint I heard most from viewers was that the film suffered by breaking up that symmetry.

And again, as with all chronological structures, the scaffolding can be kicked away once the basics are established, there are plenty of shots here where the framing is one-point, but the subjects are set at thirds and fifths left and right, top and bottom.


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