Sometimes a perfectly-timed reaction shot might prove to be more powerful than the dramatic moment a filmmaker’s trying to convey, and might turn the focal point of the scene into a more emotionally compelling experience. Vimeo channel Must See Films’ 5-minute instructive video about the importance of reaction shots provides a quick lesson to novice film buffs on this subject. Of course there’s a lot more to learn about the use of reaction shots in film history than a short supercut like this can provide, but hopefully it’ll spark some interest for further study by young movie lovers.
During the video, the narrators points out different methods in pulling off reaction shots, whether through cutaways, pans, or even ingenious ways of including the action and the reaction within the same frame. We also get an amusing vintage clip where Alfred Hitchcock basically explains The Kuleshov Effect to the audience. I wonder what Tippi Hedren would have thought of Hitch’s expert portrayal of a creepy old man drooling over a young attractive woman?
The narrator encourages viewers to come up with their own favorite reaction shots, and instead of picking from specific films, so I’d like to point out master Sergio Leone’s perfect use of starting a scene with a reaction shot in order to dramatically accentuate the action and the conflict of the sequence. For proof, check out the scene where Eli Wallach’s Tuco is overwhelmed by the amount of graves in a graveyard in “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly”, as well as the poor ginger kid’s reaction to seeing his dead family during the infamous “Henry Fonda is a bad guy!?” scene in “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Watch below and tell us your faves.