...Not the kind of wheel you fall asleep at...


So I was thinking about this the other day, and I now offer it up as food for your thought as well...

I've noticed that horror movies utilize perfectly centered camera shots on a fairly regular basis, think The Shining or even Halloween (I can't find any sample stills from Halloween, but in the opening scenes, the first outside shots of the house are perfectly centered). And somehow it adds to the spookiness of a film:

But even moving beyond the realm of horror flicks, the perfectly centered shot (or the perfectly symmetrical shot) seems to me to often lend an air of uncomfortability or unsettledness to a scene, as evidenced in a number of Kubrick films most predominantly (he seems to be the master of this shot--it's one of the reasons that The Shining is so fricking creepy).

And I wonder, why is this?

Is it because the movie is trapped within a frame and our natural vision is only SOMEWHAT trapped in the same way, so when we look around, we rarely see things that are naturally occuring as perfectly centered in our line of vision and/or perfectly symmetrical (or at least to the point that they stand out as such to us)? Does the brain recognize it as something unnatural? And if so, does this offer into our subconscious the reminder that we are watching a movie and reinforce the idea of the gaze in such a way that we feel unsettled in our role as "voyeur"?

One essay on symmetry in film states that symmetry can focus the attention on important characters or important scenes (Source), so perhaps if we are inundated with symmetrical shot after symmetrical shot (such as in The Shining) it becomes oppressive and confusing? The same source also states that "Symmetry is a very obvious form of composition, which of course offers opportunities but at the same time can cause a situation to seem artificial, stilted, and thus shatter the illusion of the fiction. This is possibly the reason that a lot of filmmakers try to avoid symmetry." This reinforces the notion of the gaze and would make sense in explaining why the use of symmetry within horror movies is so creepy--because it is sort of placing us in the role of "witness" to any number of horrible atrocities while we sit back and do nothing about them...

Maybe all of this is just foolish musing. I don't know, but I sure dig the thought.

What thinkest you all, my movie nerd friends?



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