6. Moving Cameras
Another classic rule was that to establish a new location one needed to set up a new shot, emphasise the change in environment and scenery. But more than a few times, the directors of this movement would simply pan the camera towards their new location if it was in close proximity.
The idea of moving a camera may not seem like much, but at the time an unencumbered filming style was a rarity. It was exclusively used for documentary films, but the new wave filmmakers wanted to differentiate themselves and used it to a much greater extent, and with multiple variations. Whereas Godard would track at a low angle in front of his characters, Truffaut would use quick panning shots.
Moving their cameras could rapidly change the space of an environment within that film, a closed space could become an open one within a single shot, or vice versa. The film is less encapsulated and shows an open world around the characters rather than the world existing purely within the frame.
An audience could subconsciously sense a much wider world and beyond what they simply saw. This would help to blur the lines between the film and the real world, and if a film felt more relevant to reality the audience were more likely to pay closer attention to its message and apply it to their own lives.
7. Playing with the Framing
Traditionally, a director was limited to their frame within the screen, they could play with tone and atmosphere through their camera techniques and movements, but they would always be limited to their own screen. Remember though, if there was any possibility that such a feeling could be accomplished using a different method, the New Wave creators would experiment with it. So instead of allowing themselves to be restricted by their framing, they played with it.
The reason other filmmakers had avoided this was because they felt that such an act would break the illusion of the film. But the French were not worried about maintaining an illusion, they wanted people to notice their techniques and therefore had no issues altering one of the most fundamental laws of cinema, changing the size of their frame at different points in the film.
Instead of using close ups to draw the audience’s attention to one thing, they would adjust the entire frame to fit around just that one aspect. It served the same purpose of using the camera to draw the audience towards one specific detail, but once again it was a different way of achieving the same effect.
If anything it was more successful as it allowed them to maintain their shot without moving or adjusting the camera, so by breaking the illusion in one aspect, they enhanced it in another. Additionally they could use a freeze frame to emphasise a single moment, much like the famous final shot of The 400 Blows.
Above nearly all else, the French New Wave was about filming the truth. By establishing a singular vision that could be developed with their techniques in order to create what they saw as the most honest and truthful depiction of their stories could be. It was a self-conscious rejection of the literary period pieces that were being made at the time and a stronger desire to shoot youthful, socially representative themes.
By using their own methods with their complete control, the director hoped to convey their own opinions, emotions and life experiences. They were themselves fans of film who had lived alongside everyone else within France, surely they could understand the issues and experiences of every other citizen.
Once again they were not directly opposed or disliked the techniques of their predecessors, they simply felt that this was not necessarily reflective of their lives and did not speak to them with the same relevance that they thought they could achieve with their own films. Instead of relying on the methods from an era of movies, they thought was outdated they would use ones that were more truthful to their own lives.
9. Contempt for Audience
One aspect that the New Wave filmmakers disagreed with about films of their time was that the messages, plot and themes of the film were spoon-fed to the audience. The studios were worried that audiences would not see a movie that they struggled to understand and were continually simplified to increase their appeal. The directors of this movement felt that their audience should be challenged and forced to look beyond what they were simply seeing and consider their own perception of it.
Rather than simply using their images to stun and awe the audience, but to play with their own expectations and conceptions. They wanted to shock their audiences out of inactiveness, be bold and direct instead of simply providing them with escapism.
This would later be regarded as having a ‘contempt for audiences’, creating thought-provoking pieces of film that would generate more consideration to the material in front of them. They wanted their films to be discussed, analysed, deliberated so that the viewer could not be naïve to what they were saying in their films. This kind of directing can be seen from subsequent filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch.
10. Breaking Their Own Rules
These techniques and methods are all well and good, but what happens when you have a new established order? As far as the auteurs saw it, by that stage they would be back at square one, stuck within a regulated set of rules that would restrict the creative talent of other directors to follow. So after a while they even began to break their own rules of filmmaking.
By going beyond their own established techniques, they ensured that the movement could always evolve and adapt, it could always find a way to speak directly to an audience and challenge the status quo, it could always be relevant and important and amazing.
Author Bio: Joshua Price considers himself more of a fan that happens to write near insane ramblings on movies and directors like Scorsese, Spielberg, Fellini, Kubrick and Lumet rather than an actual critic and other insane ramblings can be found at criticalfilmsuk.blogspot.co.uk.