Film Analysis: THE SHOT / CAMERA

Taxi Driver (SCORSESE, 1976, 114-mins.)
Pay special attention to how the relationship between shots works to communicate narrative and thematic
meaning. To that end, be sure to do a shot breakdown of at least part of a given scene so you can describe
how specific shots are set-up and composed to communicate such meaning in the scene through the interior
lives of the characters — this will include the relationship of the characters to each other, through their
arrangement together and with their environment, as well as in relationship to the camera and the perspective
of the viewer.
(Note: You don’t need to answer all of the following suggested questions, but here are some specific ideas to
How do the compositional choices by the director delineate relationships between characters and their states
of mind within a scene? Think back to the large desk separating the two characters in the scene from Little
Caesar, or the way that young Charlie is framed in the window in the center of the image while playing in the
snow outside during the scene from Citizen Kane. What do the arrangement and position of characters and
objects in the frame communicate about their importance to one another and to us as the audience? Are
characters balanced in the frame or are they shown unequally, and what does this indicate about power in the
scene? And what of the lighting contrast and color palate? How do those elements work to convey thematic
Pay particular attention to the camera choices the director makes — the angle of shots and the distance of
characters and objects from the camera, including whether characters are framed alone or together and their
arrangement in the frame, whether viewed from above or below or straight on, captured in a distant long shot
or close-up, a canted frame, with soft or sharp focus, diffuse light or hard shadows. Is there a constancy to how
characters are portrayed in the frame, such as from a particular angle or with particular lighting, or does this
depend on the relationship between the characters from scene to scene? Why might the director make a
particular choice in the framing of a character, or develop any variations for a given character?
Are there any POVs in the scene that convey the subjective view of a character? How does such a choice
create an emotional connection to the character or specific insight into the character’s state of mind to aid your
narrative experience of the film,? In what other ways does the director convey this kind of individual
subjectivity? Consider the use of light and color in this way.
Finally, what about camera movement? This can be key to the creation of meaning and the emotional and
thematic energy of a film. Is the camera typically static, or does it move with any characters within the scene?
Does the camera ever move on its own, guiding us through the world of the film? What do you think motivates
the movement of the camera at such times and how might such independent movement suggest the presence
of an omniscient cinematic narrator? Does the camera move for all characters, or just for some? And does it
move in the same way for each character, or in particular ways for specific characters? What do these camera
movements communicate about the relationship between the characters in a given scene, and do any camera
movements ever convey dramatic or thematic meaning to effect the way we experience the film?

Sample Solution