The Language of Film:

Point of View


Point of View--The relationship a camera has to a person or action. Usually movies use an objective point of view, so that most of what is shown is not confined to any one person’s perspective.

Point of view is a central term in writing about films because films are basically about seeing the world in a certain way. Pay attention to point of view by using these two general guidelines:

1)       Observe how and when the camera creates the point of view of a character.

2)       Notice if the story is told mostly from an objective point of view or from the subjective perspective of one person.  


Example 1: The scenes, excerpted from Big Fish, represent two different time periods in Edward Bloom’s life. How does the camera, setting, and colorization convey point of view differently in these clips? What do the different points of view suggest about Edward’s state of mind, or his shifting sense of “reality”?



 Example 2:

How does the camera construct point of view in the clip below?

In this clip, Will views his father from the outside--he peeks in the room at his father  from outside the door (notice, his face is positioned behind his father). What does the arrangement suggest about Will’s point of view, particularly his relationship to his father, the “storyteller”?


While isolating salient clips from film, such as the ones below, consider how the mise-en-scene, lighting, and camera angle convey point of view. The first clip features Dustin Hoffman, as Benjamin, in the famous seduction scene from The Graduate (© 1967) starring Anne Bancroft’s legs.  Mrs. Robinsons leg, framing Benjamins body, visually reinforces the films triangulation of romance conflicts: Benjamin is trapped into an affair with Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his fathers business partner, then later falls in love with her daughter, Elaine. The second clip features Mrs. Robinson peering down at Benjamin from the second floor of her house. She obviously looks seductive, predatory, powerful, while Benjamin looks small in the frame. The camera angle symbolically points to the hierarchical nature of their relationship: Mrs. Robinson is in control. Notice, too, that in both clips we see Benjamins shadow: symbolically, this might point to duplicity in Benjamin (he is, after all, having an adulterous affair that he doesnt want others to know about). The shadow also creates the effect of a third person” in the room, a presence of some kind, again underscoring the films triangulated romance plot.


Point-of-View Shots from 25th Hour

The clips below feature Jacob Elinsky in Spike Lee’s 25th Hour. The first clip frames Jacob’s face in Mary’s arm. What does this point-of-view shot suggest about Jacob and his relationship with his student Mary? The second shot shows Jacob, from Frank’s New York apartment, looking down at Ground Zero.