1. Some examples

Actually a rather silly headline, because all other stations also just consist of little more than commentated examples. The purpose of these here is to relate a general view on directing and what techniques are used. Eventually the very style of direction in "A Little Princess Sara" is already perceptible here.

normal cut in a dialogue

First, let us examine the small dialogue scene above. Dialogues are ubiquitous in films and their visualization is a common task for the director. He supports the dialogue by emphasizing one certain piece of information. Namely which person is speaking at the moment.

Obviously there are several variations of such a scene, depending on the situation. If two people laugh together or if they stare at each other, the director will show them together. In an ordinary conversation the speaking person is shown in a close-up view with the head of the other also partly visible in some cases. In the picture above the camera closes up to the people soon as well. The reason for showing Peter and Sara from a distance at first is, that they were entering the scene from the right and were already talking while doing so. It would be much to abrupt to begin the whole conversation at the market with close-ups.

Such a change of perspective can not only support just dialogues as we have seen it but also other things, for example an action like here.

a cut to support pausing

Dialogue is present here as well but there is a difference. Usually the people just stand still and gesticulate at best. But here Sara is interrupted by Becky while descending from the chair. Only after the cut she completes her action. While the last scene just deals with a simple fact, the cut here emphasizes Sara's pausing.

Especially one thing has catched my eye in this series. Very often a cut is placed right in the middle of a movement.

"cutting" an action

And not only while the typical long-lasting scenes you have been getting used to in WMT. (The standard situation: a carriage is passing by.) It also happens in very short motions, for example someone turning around is already sufficient. A fascinating effect to make a movement look much more dynamic.

The purpose of all three scenes is the same: they support a certain action. The direction uses its techniques to give effect to that action. But what if you want to express something which is not necessarily connected with the plot, for example a certain atmosphere?

Sara's windowCésar and pupils
eveningthe mirror

A very simple but nevertheless effective means to accomplish this are somewhat uncommon visual angles as shown above. Only some technical skill is required for them. This method is fairly popular, especially if the director is very ambitious and idealistic. The danger here is that the scene is getting flamboyant, however. The actual action is blurred by stylistic devices which is getting more annoying than it helps the atmosphere.

There is no need to worry in this series, though. Fumio Kurokawa, the director, masters the tightrope walk between efficiency and flamboyance perfectly. Unsurprisingly enough, because you have to follow just a simple rule. Such visual angles must be used as it if were casually, but yet be well-placed. In order to accomplish this the stylistic device must be adapted to the general atmosphere of the according scene. If it is a normal scene or at most one with a slightly romantic character as in wide parts of the series, the angles ought not to be too extreme. When the scene is filled with a nervous tension as in the picture on the lower right, you can act more boldly. In this scene Sara must enter the cold storm again but is accompanied to the door first.

The pictures on the right show actually partly another more subtle stylistic device, the so-called composition (I hope this is the right term). In the picture below the concept is better visible.

example for a composition

The trick is to combine two or in rare cases more themes into one picture to achieve a certain effect. Composition is a very good means to express emotions and thoughts. In the scene above Sara is at first sight just scrubbing the floor. James and Molly were talking shortly before but Sara did not. If you know her character, you can nevertheless easily imagine what she thinks now. The effort not to betray her feelings, her pride and eventually even a little bit of arrogance are clearly perceptible.

We will keep to technical matters for now. There is one aspect which worries directors of live-action films much less than those of animated works. I have called it the three-dimensional dilemma, but do not take the term too seriously.

  1. Some examples
  2. The three-dimensional dilemma
  3. To tell a story
  4. Parts of the whole
  5. Forgotten anything?

Back to the introduction
Taro Rehrl (e-mail), 1998-09-20, 2002-08-17