Something I love spotting in films is the use of a single, long shot. The idea is simple in definition but difficult in practice. Basically it’s one continuous shot that isn’t broken up by a cut to a different angle. It’s something that is very difficult to pull off but when put to practice it is very amazing to see. There are a few examples of that too, which is the point of this article. I’m pretty sure they’re called one shots. Either that or long shots. I’ll probably alternate between the two, don’t worry.
Some films may use the occasional “one shot”, other films are literally built on them. It’s something within the film industry that needs to be explored more than it is. Which is the purpose of this article I suppose, explaining what and why the long shot is used. But the “one shot” can also bring certain amounts of disadvantages if not used correctly. Those will hopefully be explored in as much detail as the correct usage. Still, it’s one of cinemas least talked about experiences. Actually, sod that, they’re so amazing I’ll have to do two articles. So right now, the very best of one shots.
The Shining – Useful Suspense
I recently watched this film for the first time and I always like to incorporate new experiences into my articles. Two scenes in this film stand out to me as particularly brilliant. Both of them contain the child, Danny, riding his tricycle around the hotel. Both the use of sound and lack of cutting makes this one of the best scenes to view.
The use of sound in particular is something I do wan’t to mention. Really it’s because the only sound used is that of Danny’s tricycle and the surface it is riding on. A louder noise when on wood, softer when on carpet. That is the only sound available to the viewer in this scene. You’d be surprised how much this actually adds to the scene. What it does in simplistic terms is add to that tense feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen next.
Because of this, it is complimented very nicely by the style of the camera throughout. A track camera of sorts behind the tricycle gives us the sense that we are seeing almost through the eyes of Danny. We experience the build up as Danny does also. This type of filming is used superbly well throughout the film. Most particularly though, these two scenes here use it best.
Kill Bill – Bathroom scene
I absolutely love Kill Bill: Volume I (2002). By that regard you’d expect me to have seen the second one. Not yet, but I’ll get there. That’s not the point though, the film features an amazing shot. It’s pretty close to the climactic finale of the film and rightly so. Honestly if this were the closing shots of the film, it would have been just as good. Either way what I’m trying to say is that this shot for the film is exceptionally good.
What I like most about this scene is that the timing of the music is impeccable with the introduction of new characters. When a character in all black appears there is an audible shift in the music for that moment. It’s small parts of the scene such as this that make it stand out from the rest.
One aspect in particular I like about this continuous shot is the use of music. What this does really is compliments the scene overall. There’d be a hell of a lot less impact with a different song, let alone no music at all. It just goes to show really that music and cinematography most of the time go hand in hand. Watch the clip above, it’s well worth your time and I couldn’t recommend it enough. Actually, the film as whole is pretty damn good.
Birdman – The Entire Damn Film
To show you an actual shot of Birdman: The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (2014) in this article would honestly ruin the magic of it. The entire film is edited in a way that makes it look like it is one continuously moving image. Obviously it’s not actually one consistent shot, but it looks so much like one that I can’t not put it on the list.
The beauty of it for me is that the entire narrative is kept in check by this style of editing. Because there is one shot, everything is constantly on the move, we’re never in one place for too long. Even though that is the case, there is still time to construct an excellent narrative. Really it’s a matter of balancing it so that plot and cinematography compliment one another, which they do very well.
Really the beauty of this film is that it all comes down to the way it was shot. It was so beautifully shot and everything needed to be truly perfect for it work in the slightest. Somehow they pulled it off and created one of the most brilliant looking experiences of all time. It really is a testament to film. But that’s the point of the film, isn’t it? An artistic direction that paid off simply for being phenomenal to view.
The real question is whether or not this type of cinematography adds to a film. I’d argue it does. If it didn’t then why would directors like Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino frequently use it? I’m not saying it’s the best shot a film can do, not at all. There is no best shot a film can do. What I am suggesting though is that, when used right, it can truly make a scene what it is.
Obviously there are examples of where this can go horrendously poorly. But for the most part, continuous shots are pretty popular. If anything they have every right to be popular. Birdman proves that even the illusion of a single shot can be enough to win you an Oscar for Best Picture. Those films that do in fact use them are equally as fun to see.