Symmetry in P.T. Anderson’s films

August 27, 2012

I mentioned a few weeks ago that P.T. Anderson’s new film, The Master, will at last see the light of day — or at least the light of a darkened cinema — this fall. Here is a short but very interesting “video essay” by Matt Zurcher on the use of symmetry in his earlier films, and in particular in his most recent, There Will Be Blood. The point is not just about visual symmetry on the screen (though it is that too), but about his use of narrative symmetry to convey the development of his characters and themes. (Warning: there is foul language in some of the illustrative examples.)

I find this sort of thing fascinating. I suppose I remain in thrall to the idea that movies are primarily entertainment, rather than art — not that the two are mutually exclusive, but as a viewer I am not normally aware of the art (and artifice) of the filmmaker’s craft. For some reason I find the grammar of film eludes me. Perhaps that is why when someone points out that there are reasons why the camera is pointing there, showing this, and moving in that direction, etc. — well, I am always surprised.

(Hat-tip: Matthew Schmitz)

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