Look into the camera... Talk to me.
October 28, 2019 2:58 PM   Subscribe

Please give me recommendations of scenes from movies where characters look straight into the camera during a dialog scene.

I am editing a short film which is basically 4 shots, one each of the 3 characters speaking their parts, and one wide. They are seated at a table, and two of the characters are across from each other, staring straight into the camera as they speak, and the third in between, looking camera left or camera right, depending on who is speaking/being addressed. The wide is from the fourth side of the table.

Clearly a very theatrical setup, and seemingly straightforward, but I would like to see other films/examples where characters are speaking to each other (NOT to the audience) but do so looking directly into the camera (no over-the-shoulders).

To be clear, I'm NOT looking for examples of characters "breaking the fourth wall" or doing any other kind of a "wink-wink" at the audience. I'm also not looking for examples from documentaries (à la Errol Morris). I'm specifically looking for a dialog scene between 2-3 characters similar to this [That 70s Show YouTube link] but with cuts.

Any takers?
posted by war wrath of wraith to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is something that Silence of the Lambs executes to perfection. There are a lot of tight shots of Hannibal talking to Clarice, and there's a great exchange later in the movie between Clarice and Ardelia where they're talking about how Buffalo Bill covets. Tight shots of their faces, speaking to each other but directly into the camera. It makes the scenes feel much more intense than a wide shot with both of them in it.
posted by phunniemee at 3:15 PM on October 28, 2019 [10 favorites]

Off the top of my head, there's a brief scene in The Shining, when Jack talks to Lloyd the bartender.
posted by extramundane at 3:16 PM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

There's the scene where Obi-Wan Kenobi first appears in Star Wars. It turns out he's addressing R2, but the camera puts the audience in R2's place.
posted by lharmon at 3:23 PM on October 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

not a movie but there's a sequence in the 90s sitcom "Frasier" where first Niles then Daphne (I think) each tell their respective partners that they're leaving them (so they're speaking directly to the camera, the audience stands in for the partner.) I think the episode was called "the dish ran away with the spoon."
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:55 PM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You need to review the films of Yasujiro Ozu (1903-1963). Here's an example from "Late Spring" (starting at 1:18) but he always has scenes like this in his films, where two characters are talking to each other at table. (Sometimes he even syncs up their movements.) If you need the more modern example, that would be the execrable Buffalo '66 from 1998, which has a few scenes where Vincent Gallo pays homage to/emulates/mocks/ineptly copies the same style.
posted by Rash at 4:12 PM on October 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

Are you referring to POV/first person shots? The entirety of the excellent UK tv comedy Peep Show is shot like this. You can find tons of hilarious clips on YouTube.
posted by homesickness at 4:26 PM on October 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

Yup. Every Ozu film.
posted by Dr. Wu at 4:53 PM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

My all time favorite of this type of scene is from Apocalypse Now, where Captain Willard is being given his mission over a meal.
posted by The Deej at 5:16 PM on October 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

There is a great example of this in an episode of "The Leftovers"; specifically, "Lens", from Season 2. Here's part of the scene, though the full scene is longer than that clip.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:50 PM on October 28, 2019

Best answer: Ingmar Bergman liked to do it, repeatedly in Persona (cw for discussion of abortion and unwanted pregnancy/child) and extensively in the Letter Scene of Winter Light.
posted by notquitemaryann at 7:13 PM on October 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

Off the top of my head, the first quarter or so of the movie Enter the Void by Gaspard Noe is in first person and there's a fair amount of dialogue in this fashion.

On a less serious note, SNL did it for Christopher Walken's series of skits "The Continental."
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 7:22 PM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

There's a scene in I think the second Jason Bourne film where the character's in a bathroom cleaning up after a killing, and looking at himself in the mirror, they had a lot of issues doing that sequence, it's not a green screen sequence if I remember correctly, quite visceral as the protagonist realises what he is, all done without dialogue and little sound. Oops probably not on point with post, but shot feels like a dialogue with self.
posted by unearthed at 7:57 PM on October 28, 2019

But these last two don't qualify -- the question isn't about characters doing monologues or soliloquies into mirrors, but instead substituting the camera for the other person in a dialogue - a very intimate technique, forcing you into the perspective of one, and then the other. I understand this dead-center style is anathema to Hollywood directors and cinematographers, who'd never position the camera this way.
posted by Rash at 8:10 PM on October 28, 2019

In this interview scene from Office Space, the two interviewers talk directly to the camera, which takes the POV of the interviewee. (The reverse shots are over-the-shoulder, though.)

Every Frame a Painting did a fantastic short video essay on the different shots in a single scene from The Silence of the Lambs (mentioned by phunniemee above) which includes both characters talking directly into the camera, mixed with a variety of other shots.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:14 PM on October 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

How about the "to the pain" scene in The Princess Bride?

"Drop ... your ... sword!"
posted by DingoMutt at 11:34 PM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

First thing that comes to mind is Robocop (the 1987 original), a POV in which the late Officer Murphy, resurrected as a cyborg, awakens as his systems boot up, complete with a 1987-era heads-up display. This scene contains some indirect body horror. Later on in the movie, Robocop's ability to record everything he witnesses plays a crucial role in the resolution of the plot.

After seeing the opening montage, there's a second POV sequence that starts at about the 5 minute mark in the same video, as he's being installed, as equipment, at his old precinct.

Pretty much any movie in which video chat is an element will work, from asynchronous very-long-distance communications in sci-fi movies, where people are talking to spaceships and people on other planets/moons, to the recent spate of horror movies that are built on people talking on Skype and similar, such as Unfriended and its sequel. I haven't seen them, but the trailers seem to indicate that much of the perspective is from the webcams of various computers.

Another possible source is so-called found-footage films in which a character is the photographer. Blair Witch Project is a significant film using that technique. I don't really if the marvelous recent movie Troll Hunter had shots like this, but it had the right setup.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:36 AM on October 29, 2019

Good Night and Good Luck, although these are scenes delivered to camera in-film, rather than directly to the audience.
posted by Chaffinch at 2:49 AM on October 29, 2019

Not a movie, but the recent game Telling Lies has a whole bunch of this. The premise of the game is that you’re doing searches on a database of intercepted video chats, so the whole thing is spoken directly into the camera. (Sam Barlow’s previous game Her Story might also be worth a look)
posted by firechicago at 6:11 AM on October 29, 2019

One of the first shots in Mean Girls, when Cady's parents are talking to her before her first day of school, uses this technique, if I'm remembering correctly.
posted by helloimjennsco at 8:42 AM on October 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

both ferris bueller's day off and fight club!
posted by megan_magnolia at 1:27 PM on November 2, 2019

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