Spike Lee's Movie 'malcolm X' With Regard To Camera Movement And Techniques Used.

1529 words - 6 pages

Camera MovementSpike Lee brought the life of African-American leader Malcolm X to the big screen in this sprawling, epic biographical drama in 1992. In this extract, Malcolm X is shown preaching the message of the Nation of Islam to the public in several different locations. Denzel Washington, playing Malcolm, presents fiery street talk to passers by and audiences in each location, and Spike Lee's powerful use of camera emphasises this. In each location, camera movement is used in a different manner, with each location progressing in its focus on Malcolm.In the first location, Malcolm is competing with two other speakers in a crowded street for an audience. The scene is shot in an open format, as the voices of all speakers can be heard simultaneously, in spite of the fact that only one is visible in the frame at a time. All of the speakers are using some sort of platform to stand on, and are at a higher level than the passers-by and crowds of audiences. The viewer feels as if he/she is seeing through the eyes of a wandering onlooker in a 'point of view' shot (Bordwell & Thompson 2001: 228). The camera is positioned slightly below the eye-level of onlookers, listening to one or another of the speakers. As a result of its height, when looking at the speakers it must tilt upwards in order to view them on their raised platforms, and when panning between speakers, tilts back down to show the faces of the onlookers nodding in agreement. This view of each speaker from below results in the viewer, to some extent, feeling a sense of authority emanating from the individual speakers (Izod 1987: 57). This use of camera movement also allows the heads of onlookers listening intently to be included in the shot when tilting up to look at the speaker.If Spike Lee had wanted to show the people in the audiences as simply three groups of indistinguishable masses of people; he would possibly set the camera on a tripod at eye-level with the speakers. Rather than the viewer being able to see each individual onlooker's reaction to the speaker's preaching and feel part of the gathering, he/she would have felt like an external observer. This would have also meant that the viewer would feel more powerful than the indistinct 'rabble' below. If he wanted to show the speakers as small and weak, he could have possibly used a very high crane looking down on the entire gathering or an aerial shot, but this would have eliminated the chance of showing the individual speakers in action, most importantly Malcolm.In the actual shot, the person through who's eyes the viewer is seeing, wanders from speaker to speaker in a circular motion, starting and finishing with Malcolm X. This choice of starting and again finishing on Malcolm in itself shows the viewer that after hearing the other two speakers, the onlooker prefers Malcolm. On first viewing, this movement appears to be a simple 360 degree pan, from one speaker to the next, with the camera in the centre of the three speakers....

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