The Grammar of Film
For this analysis I would like to take three shots from a very memorable scene of probably one of the most famous westerns and one of my favorites films of all time, I’m talking about the 5 minute standoff near the end of The Good, the Bad & the Ugly. I will take three shots from the scene and focus on their denotative and suggestive meaning, discussing how they work in relation to the whole scene.
For this example let’s concentrate on the Bad. In his close-up we appreciate his facial expression, his hard edge lines around his eyes as he squints. He is looking off-screen to the right of the frame and if we go back to the LS, we can deduce that he is looking at the Good. Judging from his face we could say that he is rather worried of that character and as a later shot shows his hand slowly advances from his pistol as he is afraid to make any sudden move that would cause the Good to draw. In a Medium shot (MS) such detail would have been lost. The facial expression wouldn’t have been clear and the slow movement might not have been registered by the audience.
Near the end of the scene the most predominant shot are Extreme Close-ups of the characters’ eyes. With these eye level shots we enter the character’s perspective, at the subsequent shot we can deduce that we are seeing what the character is so sharply looking at. In other words, the purpose of these types of shot is for us to identified with the character and gain his perspective. In this case the same happens with the three characters and so we identified and we see what our three characters see as they approach the end of their standoff and its going to have to be draw or die.
In the end each shot literary presents us with information, either the spatial relationship between the characters, important details as their facial gestures and faint hand movements however they also suggest meaning when taken account with the rest of the film or scene. An LS isolates our characters in their showdown a CU stresses their emotions and their shots at eye level places the viewer inside their perspective.