Dolly zoom and dutch angles

Dolly zoom, is an art of cinematography where the camera is pulled away from a subject while the lens zooms in, or vice-versa. The effect of it depends on the direction in which the camera is moved. If the camera moves closer, the background seems to grow and become dominant. If the camera moves further away, the foreground subject is emphasized and becomes dominant. This trick was first developed by Irmin Roberts, in the Hitchcock classic Vertigo.

Other notable films that extensively used this trick were Jaws, Event Horizon, Poltergeist, Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, Lord of the Rings, and The Quick and the Dead. The effect is amazing and is often used to convey sudden realization, reaction to a dramatic event or even the notable vertigo falling effect. In fact, my first blog was named “vertigo around”- my tribute to a cinematic style which can’t be seen by eyes, but can only be felt.

Dutch angle is also a cinematic tactic often used to portray the psychological uneasiness or tension in the subject being filmed. A Dutch angle is achieved by tilting the camera off to the side so that the shot is composed with the horizon at an angle to the bottom of the frame. Dutch angles can be a static shot at an obscure angle, or in a moving shot pivoting, panning or tracking along a diagonal axis. This angle is widely used to depict madness, unrest, and disorientation. I loved the 1949 classic The Third Man for its brilliant use of this trick. Slumdog Millionaire, if some one noticed, has more dutch angle shots than normal shots…

Now, imagine the two deadly tricks combined in one shot! The Dutch angle puts forward a sense of psychological imbalance and the vertigo zoom builds up a sense of rush. The resulting feeling of this combination can only be imagined! I’m already getting goose bumps! It has been recently implemented by QT in Kill Bill-1 and by Terry Gilliam in Tideland– but at a very small-scale. However, it still remains an unexplored cinematic thrill.


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