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CaveGirl

Forced Perspective

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I first became aware of this technique in college during my "Theology in Film" class. We were assigned the film "The Night of the Hunter" book by Davis Grubb and the film, by Charles Laughton. Though I'd seen the film quite a few times, our research into it encompassed all sorts of trivia, resulting in deep background into the forced perspective techniques of master cinematographer, Stanley Cortez. As we all know, he supposedly used a pony with a diminutive actor aboard for the scene that was to appear to be Mitchum in the distance.  Such optical tricks not only can be effective for cost reasons but also serve as semaphores for other hidden meanings in the tapestry of a film.

Forced perspective is ostensibly used to make objects appear larger or smaller than their true size, to increase distances being viewed or a panoply of other possiblities. Films can use optical illusion for many purposes, but I've not seen such things as Anamorphosis, like that of Hans Holbein's painting "The Ambassadors" and its skull, but that's not to say such a trick could not be in a film. The origins of forced perspective can probably be traced back in films to German silents and of course through masterpieces like "Citizen Kane" and "Casablanca".

I found the delving into the construction of the film, TNOTH to be an enjoyable enterprise, and am always interested and intriqued when I see possible instances of forced perspective in other films, be it, B-potboilers trying to save a few cents or highbrow films that perhaps are looking for a unique visual style. I could name my other favorite instances of forced perspective on film, but would prefer to hear the favorites of other posters first and I might learn of some examples of which I am not aware.
Thanks for any contributions you make to this thread.

 

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Okay, people, as Mick Jagger would say.

I expect to come back here in a couple days and find some nice posts about Forced Perspective or else I may have to take the law into my own hands.

And Spence, if you are reading this, one would think you at least would comment since you yourself have complained about the laziness of some posters at responding to our most sanguine posts, which surely deserve at the very least a few comments by our supposed TCM "friends" [and I use the term loosely].

Get with the program, TCM posters or you will need to leave this site.

Respondez-vous asap!

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Are you including in this discussion the mention of miniatures? I think Hitchcock used a miniature for the exteriors of Manderley in REBECCA. It was probably more cost effective especially when the place burns down at the end.

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I'd say that using a miniature in the BG (as shown in the Python example above) is not forced perspective at all, just a usual trick of the trade.  To me, forced perspective is much more accurately used in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, where the sets were built to fool they eye and create a sense of depth that doesn't really exist.

 

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I am sorry to say that nearly all that I know of forced perspective in movies is that it is the technique used to make characters appear as if they are greatly different in size as in: Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959). My favorite such use is: Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter series. 

I can not recall noticing any examples of: anamorphosis in a movie. I suspect it would not represent well. I do know that Vaux-le-Vicomte appeared in at least one James Bond movie and the gardens there are perhaps the largest and most famous example of the use of the technique. I have watched all movies in the series but I am sad to say I do not recall in which movie it appeared or if the gardens were shown in detail or if the unusual perspective was apparent. 

You may find this of interest: https://www.imdb.com/videoplayer/vi310090777

 

 

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The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies are great examples. I would add the inverse example of the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings movies.

I'll have to put my thinking cap on and recall more classical examples that I've seen.

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5 minutes ago, SansFin said:

I am sorry to say that nearly all that I know of forced perspective in movies is that it is the technique used to make characters appear as if they are greatly different in size as in: Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959). My favorite such use is: Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter series. 

And then again of course, there's sort of the opposite use for this effect.

(...c'mon now people, SURELY you don't think Cagney, Bogart, Ladd, Stallone and host of other actors who'd have a hard time reaching something on the top shelf of their kitchen cabinets without the use of a step stool, were all that "big", now do you?!)

 

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I think a great use of forced perspective was in Shock Corridor by Samuel Fuller. I just watched it again recently after watching Unsane in the theater. Little people are used in the background to make the corridor seem longer.

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The Odessa Steps in Battleship Potemkin. Brilliant as Eisenstein was, he didn't build the steps. :)

But they are wider at the bottom and narrow towards the top to give the impression of greater depth than there really is.

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There may have been some at the very begining of Scarface (1932) with the neon signs in the distance.

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16 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Are you including in this discussion the mention of miniatures? I think Hitchcock used a miniature for the exteriors of Manderley in REBECCA. It was probably more cost effective especially when the place burns down at the end.

I am very open to extrapolation on my post's themes, TB so yes, using miniatures as fulfilling a concept optically fit in well. Thanks for the info on Hitch's use of miniatures in "Rebecca".

Speaking of Hitch, we all know that he used the real mission for the dramatic falls of women in "Vertigo" but that tower of course was added later to the shots. Being a fan of Luis Bunuel, of course I find it fascinating that Hitch's bell tower scene was inspired by the scene in Bunuel's classic story of jealousy, "El" which is not shown much. Every time I see it, I am thrilled at the similar bell tower setting and how one thing can influence another. Hitch made it clear that he was a fan of Bunuel too, on one of those interviews he did with Dick Cavett on television. Sorry for the digression. Thanks, TB for responding so now I will not have to use any martial force on you for a proper reply as requested.

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13 hours ago, EricJ said:

hqdefault.jpg

"...It's only a model."  (Shh!)

So wonderful to see the boys from Oxford and Cambridge together again, Eric! My most profuse appreciation for your very apt post.

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12 hours ago, overeasy said:

I'd say that using a miniature in the BG (as shown in the Python example above) is not forced perspective at all, just a usual trick of the trade.  To me, forced perspective is much more accurately used in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, where the sets were built to fool they eye and create a sense of depth that doesn't really exist.

 

Using miniatures to force one to view something as being distantly located, or to make the miniature building appear to be larger, is a form of forced perspective, even if the film's dialogue is admitting that this is just a model, as the Python boys would be wont to do. There are many adjuncts to the original concept of forced perspective, even in architecture, so the list is long and contains some things which might seem to many just visual tricks but still belong in the category. And Caligari being in the German silent pantheon is definitely a part of the process as it evolved. Thanks for your thoughts, Overeasy!

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I'm enjoying the replies on this thread. A lot of good, informative stuff!

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Both the office scenes in the Silent film "The Crowd" and in 1960s "The Apartment" use forced perspective.

 

 

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9 hours ago, CaveGirl said:

I am very open to extrapolation on my post's themes, TB so yes, using miniatures as fulfilling a concept optically fit in well. Thanks for the info on Hitch's use of miniatures in "Rebecca".

I found some images.

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 4.18.29 PM.jpg

The front of Manderley...and I presume this is the back:

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 4.18.56 PM.jpg

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How about the staircase scene at the end of Notorious?  Hitchcock had the four actors walk down some of the steps multiple times to make it look as though there were more steps than there actually were so that he could drag the scene out.

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On 5/15/2018 at 11:48 PM, spauldingd said:

I think a great use of forced perspective was in Shock Corridor by Samuel Fuller. I just watched it again recently after watching Unsane in the theater. Little people are used in the background to make the corridor seem longer.

Love that Samuel Fuller movie! Thanks for mentioning that interesting use of FP, which I'd forgotten about, Spaulding.

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On 5/16/2018 at 12:12 AM, FilmSnob said:

The Odessa Steps in Battleship Potemkin. Brilliant as Eisenstein was, he didn't build the steps. :)

But they are wider at the bottom and narrow towards the top to give the impression of greater depth than there really is.

That is fascinating, FS! I never noticed that but always get thrilled seeing that superlative sequence. Eisenstein's use of montage and differing concepts for film is always so innovative. The optical tricks of making pillars larger at bottom or carytids smaller at the top with the heads is instructive as a film technique too apparently. Thanks for submitting your knowledge to the thread. I can't even think of anyone who is as amazing as Eisenstein in creating third images on film, as he did in things like "Que Viva Mexico".

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On 5/16/2018 at 12:09 PM, CaveGirl said:

Using miniatures to force one to view something as being distantly located, or to make the miniature building appear to be larger, is a form of forced perspective, even if the film's dialogue is admitting that this is just a model, as the Python boys would be wont to do. There are many adjuncts to the original concept of forced perspective, even in architecture, so the list is long and contains some things which might seem to many just visual tricks but still belong in the category. And Caligari being in the German silent pantheon is definitely a part of the process as it evolved. Thanks for your thoughts, Overeasy!

Agreed.  I was probably being way too narrow in my conception of this.  Fun thread!

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My favorite is the cemetery/subway/skyline in ARSENIC AND OLD LACE.

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