Do you know of any movies that play on third-person and first-person perspective like in Samuel Beckett's Film?
November 7, 2011 12:43 AM   Subscribe

Do you know of any movies that play on third-person and first-person perspective like in Samuel Beckett's Film?

In the movie I linked to the eye of the beholder and that of the perceiver are folded in to that of the camera. Do you know any more such movies that play upon such ideas?

Here is an article on Beckett's Film:
posted by beshtya to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you mean films that make some kind of philosophical point about first/third person or films that just use it? There's the Bogie/Bacall Dark Passage which uses both perspectives, but I doubt it's making any kind of philosophical point.
posted by juv3nal at 1:20 AM on November 7, 2011

juv3nal, not necessarily. I'm also interested in movies that use it for visual effect, or to perhaps advance the narrative. Not philosophy only.
posted by beshtya at 1:28 AM on November 7, 2011

This any good? In Tarkovsky's Mirror there is an adult male narrator, Aleksei, whom we encounter only as a voice-over: we don't see his face (towards the end, we see his hand). However, we see Aleksei as a boy, played by a boy actor. And the same boy actor also plays the narrator's son, Ignat. Sounds confusing? It is.
posted by londongeezer at 3:25 AM on November 7, 2011

The movie "Strange Days" features a piece of technology that allows the user to see recorded memories in first person, and IIRC part of the plot is trying to figure out who was originally recorded since they see a murder committed in the first person during one of the recordings.
posted by selfnoise at 3:37 AM on November 7, 2011

londongeezer, yeah, that's good. give me more.

selfnoise, it sortof fits.
posted by beshtya at 3:50 AM on November 7, 2011

OK, though I know this is probably a ridiculous answer, because it's such a short effect... this happens in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The camera POV briefly becomes that of Brad and/or Janet, as Frank greets them in the lab, holding out his hand. ("I shall entertain..." and here the audience yells, "THE CAMERAMAN!")
posted by tomboko at 4:08 AM on November 7, 2011

In the movie Doom, loosely based on the first-person video game Doom3, late in the movie when a character goes crazy, the filming switches from 3rd to 1st-person, partly to emphasize the character's transformation, partly homage to the perspective of the video game.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:29 AM on November 7, 2011

The 1947 film Lady in the Lake is shot entirely from the point of view of the main protagonist (Philip Marlowe, as it happens).
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 5:47 AM on November 7, 2011

Not a movie (someone should make one!) but 1st to 3rd person perspective is the whole point of Nabokov's The Eye.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:23 AM on November 7, 2011

As an aside I should mention Victor Hugo's La Conscience. From Wikipedia:

‘Conscience’ in French can mean either ‘conscience’ in the English sense or ‘consciousness’ and the double meaning is important. Hugo's poem concerns a man haunted by an eye that stares at him unceasingly from the sky. He runs away from it, ever further, even to the grave, where, in the tomb, the eye awaits him. The man is Cain. He has been trying to escape consciousness of himself, the self that killed his brother, but his conscience will not let him rest. The eye/I is always present and, when he can run no further, must be faced in the tomb.”

So, please gentlepeople, tell me of more such objects - cinematic, literary, what-have-you.
posted by beshtya at 6:59 AM on November 7, 2011

Nothing comes to mind that looks at third-person and first-person as rigorously as "Film" -- which has a reputation among even highbrow critics as being overtly pretentious! -- so that they become the very subject of the film itself. But I can think of a few films that make interesting points about being and seeing by using first-person, or "subjective" camerawork.

If you consider Strange Days, you might also consider Brainstorm, which is an earlier science-fiction movie about a device that can record and play back first-person experience. (Interestingly in a film context, the bulk of the movie is framed at 1.85:1 with a nearly monaural soundstage, but the first-person sequences expand the frame to 2.35:1 and emphasize surround-sound effects.)

There is that eerie first-person prologue to John Carpenter's Halloween, which plays on ideas about audience identification with the killer and/or victim (not to mention voyeurism) by forcing us into the perspective of a masked slasher. (A young boy, no less!) This may have been done earlier in one or more of the Italian gialli; I'm not sure.

Speaking of John Carpenter, there's also They Live and its idea of Hoffman lenses that allow the wearer to see the world as it really is. Reasonable people disagree on its merits, but it is one of the key political films of the 1980s.

I want to say that Kieslowski did this all the time, subtly. Certainly there is plenty of subjective camerawork in The Double Life of Véronique — Weronika's Dutch-angle view of the flasher approaching comes to mind, and then there's the first-person sequence that follows her magnificent performance of the Van Den Budenmayer piece (spoiler carefully elided). I think there's a lot of this in the Three Colors trilogy, which does more, thematically, with the distinction between isolated, subjective experience and more omniscient god's-eye-view narrative. (Only at the very end of the third film are all the pieces brought together in a scene that seems to demonstrate how little we all know at any given moment about the richer tableaux that our lives are part of.)

And then if you want to take it back to the avant garde, make sure you check out "Meshes of the Afternoon," which experiments pretty aggressively with first-person perspective, including edits that make it look like Maya Deren is appearing in her own POV shots!
posted by Joey Bagels at 7:13 AM on November 7, 2011

Can someone translate this question into Layman? I'm trying to figure out if Peeping Tom qualifies.
posted by rhizome at 9:43 AM on November 7, 2011

Peeping Tom is certainly relevant to the issue, rhizome. It was the first one that came to my mind when I read the question. A great film.
posted by yoink at 9:59 AM on November 7, 2011

So, please gentlepeople, tell me of more such objects - cinematic, literary, what-have-you.

If literary is legit, Pamuk's The White Castle (contains spoilers) plays with frame narrative, unreliable narrators, and doppleganger characters that take one anothers' places, generally: the idea of how identity is constituted when a story is told (i.e. by who is telling it, to whom it is being told). It is not really about visual perspectives as it is storytelling ones though.
posted by juv3nal at 3:08 PM on November 7, 2011

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