See the moving picture


Continuity in Action (V)


James Williamson, Williamson Kinetograph Co., Great Britain, 1901

In Shot 1, the policeman exits the frame laterally left to right in order to alert the fire department. In Shot 2, he enters from left to right, moving diagonally from the foreground to a position at slightly greater camera distance because the façade of the building is shot at an oblique angle to the camera. The continuity with Shot 1 is reinforced because movement in Shot 2 follows the same left-to-right trajectory, confirming the location of the burning house at some location to our left. In Shot 3, the firefighters prepare to man the fire wagons by scurrying offscreen in a right-to-left trajectory—in other words, in the direction from which the policeman has come. Here, too, then, the continuity of movement is logical. In Shot 4, however, the wagons proceed in a trajectory toward our right, and the effect is disorienting: because the wagons are moving toward the position occupied by the firemen, we get the impression (at least momentarily) that we’re seeing the oncoming wagons from their point of view. Could it be, however, that a few moments have passed, during which the wagons have encountered a curve on the road toward the burning house? Conceivably, but because Williamson uses a direct cut between Shots 3 and 4, his visual strategy—at least to the modern spectator—suggests that no time has elapsed. (See also Figure 8.4. A more detailed sequence from the film is also analyzed in Figure 5.16.)

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