The Film 1917, Alfred Hitchcock and the Subtle Art Of The Continuous Shot and High Shot

Alfred Hitchcock has pioneered a plethora of filmmaking techniques in his time in film from the ’30s, ’50s and ’60s. Back when I wanted to study film, before I took up music, I studied Hitchcock films and I used to watch his TV series ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ on AXN with my father in my teens, mesmerised by the sheer art of his filmmaking. Hitchcock remains one of the most celebrated, influential and studied directors in the history of cinema.

His “high shot”, which I especially like, captures the macro image of the story while showing the micro image on-screen and is an exquisitely unique way of shooting an otherwise standard take.

Another pioneering filmmaking technique introduced by Hitchcock was the “continuous shot” he developed in the film ‘Rope’, which at the time was unheard of. It combined intelligent camera usage and something as inconspicuous as a simple colour match of an image on-screen to cut into another shot getting out of the image of that particular pervading colour. The art of editing also plays a significant role in the process of making the film seem seamless and flowing.

The continuous shot can also be implemented by using a foreground object to cover the screen in between shots and a motion blur.

While I watched the new Oscar-nominated film, ‘1917’ on an IMAX screen, I was particularly impressed by the way the film was taken as a continuous shot. The cinematography in particular, following the protagonists through the trenches and into no man’s land and enemy territory, was seamlessly fitted in to make the film appear like it was taken in one shot. Such is the beauty of the continuous shot.

Part of what makes cinema and in particular cinematography so vital is asking the question, ‘Where to put the camera?’

Hitchcock’s camera positioning is categorically marvellous and his camera weaves audiences in to the story he his trying to tell.

As a once aspiring filmmaker, I love shots where the camera is placed in unusual places enhancing the shot and making a routine shot look extravagant and visually and aesthetically appealing.

Cinematography is an art in its own realm in the process of filmmaking. I was particularly impressed by the cinematography of David Franco in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire which made the series even more enjoyable to watch.

In this short video, Vox explores the continuous shot and the films it has been used in, with the primary example of ‘1917’.

This video below explains Hitchcock’s “High Shot” and the effect it produces.

Hitchcock’s brilliance in shooting the opening sequences of his films with a distinct swagger and flair, further shows how the director weaves audiences into his plot. In the opening sequence of ‘Strangers On A Train’ here below, he focuses on the feet of the protagonists while they walk to the train, to build up suspense and lead into the sequence of the train moving, while then getting to the part where the lead characters take their seats opposite each other.

While in this shot I’ve captured on Instagram below, Hitchcock films the entire court proceedings from the viewpoint of the onlooker and the audience, i.e. between the doors; despite the fact that all the prime subjects on screen have their backs turned to the camera. This particular shot would otherwise have directors filming the scene inside the courtroom: As you can follow in the description I’ve written to the post.

It’s these little details that accentuate his shots and separate Hitchcock from other filmmakers. It’s these elements put together that cement his status as one of the greats of filmmaking.

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