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Watch: How Aspect Ratio Limns a Film Director’s Vision

Watch: How Aspect Ratio Limns a Film Director's Vision

You only know as much about a film as a director tells you. You only see as much, furthermore, as the director allows you to see. And, in considering the story within a film, you may think you are looking outwards when you allow the film to inspire expostulations and intellectual ramblings–and yet you are, in fact looking inwards, deeper into the images unrolling above you. One way we are reminded of this is through aspect ratio, which is, for the layperson, simply the proportional relation between the width of the frame and the height of the frame. De Filmkrant‘s video essay addresses the use of and experimentation with this element in recent films. Xavier Dolan’s frame tightens slowly on a woman’s face, going slowly out of focus; in another Dolan scene, a character actually pries the screen wide open. In Gust Van den Berghe’s ‘Lucifer,’ a circular frame is used throughout, giving the whole film, and subsequently its story, the quality of a vignette, from a film of an older era. Joost Broeren and Sander Spies, the video essay’s editors, attribute some of this experimentation with aspect ratio to the growth of digital filmmaking, but not all, in this survey of directors ranging from Wes Anderson to Ang Lee, and beyond. 

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