Have you ever stood in your doorway and watched your lover leave for the last time, wondering where it all went wrong? Did you watch him or her, from the silhouetted darkness of your home, as they walked into the sun’s brilliant light, started up his car’s engine, and drove out of your life forever? Was that lover the pizza guy, and he forgot the breadsticks?
Jacob T. Swinney, cinephile, filmmaker, and video essayist, has done his homework on the art of cinematography, and in his latest video compilation, has edited together some of the most classic “doorway shots” in cinematic history.
In the two minute video (below) for Fandor, the streaming site that specializes in the more esoteric feature films (think tasteful nudity and lots of subtitles), Swinney starts off with perhaps the first ever “doorway shot” from the 1956 Western, The Searchers, starring John Wayne. From there, the compilation takes viewers on a journey through some of the most cherished films in recent history to use the subtle yet powerful visual composition, including Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James, Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, and of course, Quentin Tarantino’s Spaghetti Western-inspired Kill Bill: Vol. 2.
While watching the compilation, what is usually a subtle cinematographic technique only registered subconsciously, is now brought to the fore. And it’s quite stunning to see what effect the doorway shot can have as a storytelling element. It contrasts dark and light, the inner world and the outer world, and past and present. It is both a beginning and an end, and serves as the perfect setting to watch our hero or heroine look out on the maddening world in which they have been submerged.
Now that the doorway shot is on your radar, what upcoming films do you think may employ the technique? Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight? Or maybe even… Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Finn needs somewhere to stand as he watches the Empire implode after all. And speaking of implosion, where is the pizza guy with the breadsticks?!
Image: The Searchers via Jacob T Swinney