AMBIGUITIES OF VISION: THE SPATIAL CONTEXT OF FILM
Emily Malino Scheuer

"Counting on the willing imagination of the spectator." -Schlegel

The spatial context of films, often thought of as pure scenery, can have a major impact on the text of the film and on the interaction of the characters as well. Older films, such as Chimes at Midnight, were often constrained by developing film technique or budgetary limits; contemporary films, however, can gain a flexibility from modern computer imaging and innovative film techniques that make it possible to provide space previously thought inaccessible and manipulate images to manufacture spatial context that is at once arresting and innovative.

Although Chimes is often described as modernist cinema, and certainly fits the descriptions of modernism in its attempt to provide realistic or naturalistic back-grounds for the cinematic story, a film like Richard III could be considered a post-modern interpretation of the Shakespearean story, pitting Shakespeare's characters and language against what are both familiar but unconventional spatial designs. Indeed, the idea of setting the action in the 1930's in England, with its fascist overtones, dictates the choice of a very specific spatial context that in many ways combines with the remarkable talent of Ian McKellan to inform the essential evil of the eponymous monarch.

Orson Welles, on the other hand, strapped for funds, makes use of familiar "space" and cinematic devices, particularly closeups, to take the place of space, and then places all the action within a very few spaces, all designed to reinforce the strengths and weaknesses of Shakespeare's characters. This muscular background, filmed in Spain, concentrates on the rough and tumble life of the Boarshead Tavern, as contrasted with the polished, icy palace of King Henry, Hal's father.


Renaissance Tableaux in a Postmodern Age of Visual Culture
Ambiguities of Vision: The Spatial Context of Film

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