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The Classical Point of View

Great Expectations

David Lean, Great Britain, 1946

A ghostly wind is blowing through the graveyard under an ominous sky. Pausing before a tombstone, the boy turns his head to the right (Shot 1), where he sees tree branches that rattle in the wind like skeletal hands (Shot 2). Then he turns further to the right and looks upward (Shot 3), seeing this time a tree trunk from which a sinister face seems to be looking at him (Shot 4). In each case, the shot of the object seen creates an eyeline match with the previous shot of the boy: because his glance cues the point-of-view shot, the camera is set so that its axis is parallel to his eyeline. Note also that the camera doesn’t necessarily assume the precise position of the point-of-view character. In selecting a portion of the space at which the character is looking, the camera frames it for narrative effect; in both instances, the distance between the character and the objects seen is contracted so that the objects are closer than they would be if they were being glimpsed across real space.

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