The field-reverse shot is a process of Montage Cinéma tographic which makes alternate the plan S of each of two people dialoguing theoretically face to face (in general), sometimes back with back, or side by side.
In general the field-reverse shot effect is mitigated: the cameras are not in opposition face to face (180 °) but between 90 and 120 ° of opposition what makes it possible to prevent that they are one in the field of the other and to give an effect of continuity of space to the spectator. It is the “rule of the 180 °”: the camera must be same side of a line uniting the two characters (thus in an angle lower than a flat angle, 180 °). Thus, a character is always seen of left profile and the other always of right profile; this gives a feeling of coherence to the spectator and facilitates his comprehension of the scene.
Since in each plan, only one of the protagonists is shown without visual relation with the other whereas they are precisely interacting, this process is generally regarded nowadays as heavy and static. The difficulty for a Director then consists in circumventing it.
Among possible skirtings or attenuations:
- to preserve the character who does not speak out of starter about the field;
- to lay out the character so that they do not face (conveys some, a balcony, etc);
- to preserve the plan on the person who does not speak by recording her reactions;
- presence of Mirror;
- to widen the field to introduce other meaning elements there;
- Panoramic or Dolly from one character to another (cf Breaking the Waves of Lars von Trier, In the Mood for Coils Wong Kar-Wai);
An effect of too accentuated field-reverse shot prevents the spectator from being in the scene, creating a feeling of faintness often used in films of anguish. On the other hand the absence of reverse shot is also used to give the feeling to see only part of the scene of the point of a character for example.
The choice of a field-reverse shot thus contributes to isolate the characters in their relation with their interlocutor. The field-reverse shot can in particular be used to underline the double personality of a schizophrenic character (cf the dialog of Willem Dafoe in Spiderman of Sam Raimi, or that of the character Gollum, in the Lord of the Rings of Peter Jackson). It can also be used to give the illusion of a proximity between the protagonists whereas the two characters are at different places (cf the House of the bories of Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, and by analogy, the Silence of the lambs of Jonathan Demme).
Among some remarkable examples of field-reverse shot, one can quote:
- Marcel Pagnol, in one of the first scenes of one of its films, filmed a dialog where the cameras were laid out differently with each change from point of view (while complying with the rule of the 180 °), whereas usually one has only two camera almost fixed.
- Othello (film, 1952) of Orson Welles ( The Tragedy off Othello: The Moor off Venice , 1952): for lack of money, Welles did not manage to bring together all the actors at the same time; he thus filmed only half of the dialogs, the actors absent being replaced and taken back with a hood, other half of the dialogs was filmed several months afterwards with the other actors. This is completely invisible after assembly.
- In Breaking the Waves (1996), Lars von Trier films with a light camera (video) and carries out half-turns, it films field-reverse shots without making of cut.
- Anne Høegh Krohn, in Fremde Freundin (1999, English title Unknown Friend , not of known French title), uses an original process: the two actresses are in front of a large mirror, one of it is in front of the camera, the other is behind but its reflection appears. The camera fixed, but is made the point alternatively on one and the other actress, causing this effect of field-reverse shot, although the field with properly spoken either always the same one.
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