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Between the Eye and the World

The Emergence of the Point-of-View Shot


Elena Dagrada

The point-of-view shot is usually perceived as a «natural» device, yet its naturalness is illusory. This book provides an answer to the question: «Where does the point-of-view shot come from?» It investigates the emergence of this filmic form as the product of a culture and its history, unravelling the difference between a point-of-view shot and a character’s subjective viewpoint. In so doing, it shows that what would become the point-of-view shot developed from the interposition, between the eye and the world, of a prosthesis capable of modifying the conditions needed to access the visible, and thus to expand the potential of human vision. Moreover, the book offers inspiration for further research on modern (and postmodern) vision as a mediated vision, an important topic in contemporary debates in the digital media landscape.
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Chapter 5: The Inner Gaze



The Inner Gaze

5.1. Forms of Vision

There is another important issue which now demands our attention: the issue of subjectivity. The form of representation of the gaze perfected in optical instrument or keyhole films was initially developed to reproduce a series of autonomous and spectacular views, which in principle served neither a narrative purpose, nor that of constructing a fictional “subjectivity”. That is, it did not represent views ascribable to the subjective states of the characters looking through an optical instrument or through a keyhole. The characters themselves are rarely developed enough to possess any kind of subjectivity. Even when they embody a highly stereotyped role (the indiscreet valet, the inquisitive concierge, the prankster student), they never display any psychological depth, and often do not even perform specific functions, or embody roles to which they might lend their own personality. On the contrary, these characters are essentially an extension of the spectator’s faculty of sight. The only subjectivity which may appear through the gaze represented in keyhole or optical instrument films is – if anything – that of the spectators themselves. Furthermore, the redundant gestures made by the characters are exhibited as duplications of the reactions (of wonder, amazement, admiration, excitement) stimulated in the true addressee of the views: the spectator in the audience.

It is important to highlight this fact, because film theory has shown a long-standing tendency to conflate, and even confuse, the point-of-view shot with subjectivity. Instead of...

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