Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Lower Thirds Framing

It's not often that filmmakers successfully frame something in the lower third of the frame, especially centered there. For that reason, I thought this would be an interesting composition choice to explore. Why isn't it used often, and when it is used, why was the choice made? Let's look at some examples. The first two are a double whammy of lower third and center and the last one is just fun.

The above is a still from Tokyo Gore Police. If you're even mildly a regular reader of Brain Fog, you'll know that I am a huge horror fan, and particularly a sucker for J Horror. This still is from about 45 minutes or so into the blood soaked flick and pictures "Key Man" who is the film's biologically altered villain. The run down of his scheme is that he inserts key shaped tumors into wounded humans that transform them into living killing machines called "Engineers." In this still, he is holding his ultimate weapon, the tumor he has been inserting to transform wounded civilians into mass murderers. The shot preceding this one is a close up of his face whilst holding the jar containing the tumor. He begins to laugh maniacally and then a jump cut brings us to this shot.

What this signifies to me is his view of his own importance and righteousness versus his actual standing on the moral scale. He goes from filling the frame to inhabiting only the very bottom of the frame and in silhouette. The red moon behind him? Well there are a great deal of red objects that fill various frames in the film, in all likelihood signifying the blood that has been spilled due to the evil that unfolds over the course of the 110 minute film. Although he feels powerful, his symbol of power is above his head level and still completely bottom framed, which says to me that his power will eventually subvert him. I highly recommend this  (also the production designer of Suicide Club and director of "Z" in The ABC's of Death) film to Japanese gore fans.

This next screencap if from the 2000 John Fawcett flick, Ginger Snaps. This movie stars Katherine Isabelle, the babe from American Mary (2012), as a pubescent teenager bitten by a werewolf. She and her sister, Brigitte, cope with Ginger's transformation until ultimately, SPOILER ALERT- Ginger dies. The above shot is the last shot before the credits roll at the end of the film and pictures Brigitte lying on her dead wolf sister's body in between their two beds. Earlier in the film, the shots are filmed at eye level in this room and the two sisters interact with joy and equality. This last shot gets down to a lower angle and frames the girls at the bottom of the frame while lying on the floor. This signifies their fall from happiness and grace, if that's what you can call what they had before. Brigitte is still higher in the frame than her dead wolf sister, but not by much, showing us that she has been brought down just as low as her sister with the exception that she is still living.

There's also a great sense of isolation in this framing. The beds where they so often talked and played are now lit behind them as they sit on the floor in darkness. The picture frames above their beds are also mimicking a cross shape, which display their earlier lives as innocent and pure. Their naive nature is, in all senses of the word, murdered by the end of the film. They may technically still be children, but there is nothing childlike of how they now view the world.

The next film comes with a double take. The 2009 Tommy Wirkola film, Dead Snow, gives us some good fat to chew on. This film actually utilizes the lower thirds frame a few times, but this one was the one that was the most extreme, and maybe the most effective. The Norwegian film takes place in a snowy mountain cabin and the surrounding, desolate region where crazed natives claim that Nazi zombies are alive and well. The whole nazi zombie thing is kind of played out at this point, but Wirkola seems to have written and directed this script before Call of Duty: World at War made a craze of it. On top of that, the humor, cinematography, and ADORABLE accents make this the one above others to see for yourself. The played out tropes of yesteryear's shitty horror movies are either abandoned or used to their advantage in this film. Wirkola also gives you a little creature feature background with his lovable movie geek "Erlend" who sports a Braindead t-shirt for most of the movie. (You Braindead fans will get a cheeky surprise for that one).

So let's talk about these stills. The top one takes place during a zombie killing the night before the second still. (Oh no, I ruined the fact that zombies are going to kill someone, I'm so horrible.) The nazi attack starts off up close and personal, and then pulls back to this shot. All you can see now is the tiny bit of light coming off the tent and then GAPING darkness from the mountain. I love this classic cut, telling us that no matter how loud you scream, nobody can here you. *winky face* The setting for this film is really very daunting; all the mountains are high, all the chase scenes make the characters dodge trees, and the sound design over the intimidating landscape makes you shiver like a badge on a nazi.

The next still doesn't come until a scene or two later after the night has passed. One of the characters out on the snow mobile sees a bright orange tent around a hedge. This causes the character to investigate and, well, find the corpse. (Again, I ruined the fact that a dead body was in the tent, I must be Satan, go cry to your mom.) Now the interesting thing about this that made me include the second still is that not only is it framed in the lower third of the screen, but it has also changed sides. The tent has shifted to the LEFT side of the screen now to signify something has changed. Well first off, the poor bastard's pulse has probably changed. I'll let you form a list for yourself since I gave you the first one. Interesting, also, that the two shots are almost negatives of each other. You trash zombie movies all you want, that shit is brilliant.

That about wraps it up, THANKS FOR STOPPING BY. I spent a few months on this post since, as I stated, lower thirds framing isn't your go to shot. Hope you enjoyed it, come back later for more if you dare.

No comments:

Post a Comment