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The looking machineEssays on cinema, anthropology and documentary filmmaking$
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David MacDougall

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781526134097

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526134097.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MANCHESTER SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.manchester.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Manchester University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MSO for personal use.date: 02 December 2021

Notes on cinematic space

Notes on cinematic space

(p.106) 8 Notes on cinematic space
The looking machine

David MacDougall

Manchester University Press

This chapter addresses the problem of portraying space in the cinema and the position the film viewer imagines himself or herself to occupy when watching a film. Beginning with the rendering of depth in early films, the author argues that this was never the important question; rather it was the question of how the viewer related to sensations of being included or excluded by the images on the screen. The sense of exclusion was partly resolved through editing techniques such as the shot/counter-shot technique that incorporated the viewer into the action and also by employing deep focus and proximity to close objects, as in the films of Orson Welles. Equally important were narratives that involved the viewer through identification with the characters, as well as the culturally-constructed ‘cinema of familiarity’ of genre films and the work of certain filmmakers such as Ozu. Although none of the methods employed fully succeeded in overcoming the problem of cinematic space, the author argues that at least in nonfiction cinema filmmakers can limit it by being more open about their own intentions and the limitations of the medium.

Keywords:   cinema, film history, spatial relations, cinematography, film theory

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