Don’t Stand So Close
A review of "The Eagle"
As a general rule, it’s good for an action photographer to get close to said action, but I’ve recently seen a few films that demonstrate there’s a limit. One key example was “The Eagle”. It’s a stirring tale, full of great human lessons, and a great romp through Roman Britain and Celtic Scotland. I liked the visual feel, even if some of the Celtic warriors looked more African than Scots, and counter to some reviews I enjoyed the performances of both leads, as I thought Channing Tatum’s calm portrayal of the Roman an interesting contrast with the more intense performance of Jamie Bell.
The area of concern, an unfortunate one for an action film, was the fight scenes. The camera was right in with the whirring blades, and this led to two problems. The first, which several reviewers have commented upon, was that it became impossible to follow the sequence of events, or the “big picture” view of the battle’s progress. You just couldn’t work out who had done what to whom. A key Roman character is killed in the final battle, yet neither Frances nor myself could work out when, or at whose hands. This stands in contrast to, say, Ridley Scott’s direction in “Gladiator”, when you are never in doubt about what has happened.
The other problem is more personal, and I don’t know how many people it affects. My brain obviously process visual information quite quickly, and at a certain point the world’s most popular optical illusion breaks down. If, say, a sword scythes across a large cinema screen in less than a second, I see it as a series of distinct jumps as my brain discerns the movement between successive frames. While at one level I follow movement, at another I’m distracted by “spotting the jumps”. This only happens in relatively extreme circumstances, with quick movements across large screens, but it’s consistent under those circumstances.
“The Eagle” is not the only film I’ve recently seen which demonstrated these problems. This excessive closeness to the action seems to be a developing trend. directors and cinematographers need to test their work by seeing whether someone sitting towards the front of a large cinema can follow it. If not, a step back might improve things considerably.
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
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