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March 2004, Week 3


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"Larsson, Donald F" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 16 Mar 2004 07:53:55 -0600
text/plain (138 lines)
I think that the key distinction to be made on POV vs. eyeline match is that the former is primarily an effect of cinematography (that can be cued by editing) while the latter is a fairly specific editing device, usually meant to enhance continuity (but which can be used for other effects as well).

A "true" POV shot that the viewer infers as "seeing" through the eyes of a charcter needs some type of cue to distinguish it from other types of shots in which the camera plays an independent role.  The most convenient cue is to edit in a shot to confirm that someone is looking at something.  However, as Rene Albert points out, a long "POV" shot can transform into something else by the end if new and contradictory information is given.

Some examples:
Toward the end of STAGECOACH, after the shootout, the camera tracks in toward Dallas in manner that makes us suspect that we are looking at her through Ringo's eyes as he walks toward her, only to have him emerge from one side of the frame.

In CROSSFIRE, we are apparently looking through Cpl. Mitchell's eyes.  The shot is extreme low angle and blurry, suggesting that it is the subjective POV of a drunken man.   But then Mitchell stands up into the frame and the unbroken image comes into focus.

At the beginning of VAMPYR, David Grey looks up at the roof of the inn.  The camera then pans left in a manner that suggests that we are looking through Grey's eyes, but then he emerges into the frame as well (from the left, that is the "wrong," side of the screen!).  There are several similar shots in the film.

The bar scene at the beginning of GOODFELLAS suggests that we are looking through Henry Hill's eyes as he greets the bar patrons with the unusual monikers and laces his way through the establishment, but by the end of the continuous Steadicam shot, we see Hill and a confederate pushing a stolen rack of clothes into the shot.

Other instances are even more ambiguous--the long tracking shots at the beginning of LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, for example.

On the other hand, there are also a number of instances of fake "eyeline matches" in films, often for humor (the perceived object does not fit with our expectations) or to create suspense (the "perceived" object actually is in a new setting, denying us the knowledge of what the character was actually looking at for the time being).  Resnais plays with this effect in MON ONCLE D'AMERIQUE.

The eyeline match is actually a variation on the shot/reverse-shot setup.  Note the way that Bertolluci totally disorients our expectations of spatial continuity in the interview between Athos and his father's mistress in THE SPIDER'S STRATAGEM.

Some films underline the importance of the confirming object of the character's gaze.  In THE CONVERSATION, when Harry Caul goes to collect his money, we see him look offscreen at something.  However, we do not know what he saw until he walks into the Director's office, followed by a Doberman.  (One example of the several instances in the film where we get the sense that Harry does not really "see" what is going on around him.)

Don Larsson
"Only connect!"  --E.M. Forster
Donald F. Larsson
Department of English
Minnesota State University
Mankato, MN  56001
[log in to unmask]


From: Film and TV Studies Discussion List on behalf of Rene Albert
Sent: Tue 3/16/2004 12:18 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: POV/eyeline match

re: every POV is an eyeline match ....

I think we need to be very careful making such generalizations in the form
of a definition or even worse a rule.  It's nice way to transmit concepts to
students in a succint manner, but hardly informative in terms of the actual
practice of filmmaking.

Although many POV shots are eyeline matches, I think that there are some
occasions where it arguably isn't.  A long uninterupted POV shot is not an
eyeline match.  By definition, there needs to be a preceding shot to match
to ... and this means that we are dealing with a certain form of memory of
the shot that precedes the POV (be it perceptual or cognitive).  The match
is at the transition ... but after a take lasts for a certain duration, that
POV shot becomes something else.  Also, there are cases where we are not
privy to a preceding shot ... and the world of the POV shot is all that we

I think it's safer to say that a POV shot is a view presented to the
audience as being from the perspective of a given character.  The
relationship of the shot to the character's viewpoint can be established by
an eyeline match, but it does not necessarily need to be.  This relationship
could also be estabilshed by interactions of the characters within the frame
towards the camera (or the center of the frame) or by a monologue commenting
the scene in voice-over as internal thoughts and in a variety of other
manners.  Whether the eyeline match is the most effective way of
establishing this relationship is another question altogether.

- Rene

>From: James Monaco <[log in to unmask]>
>Reply-To: Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: POV/eyeline match
>Date: Mon, 15 Mar 2004 15:11:21 -0500
>Here's a more useful definition from The Dictionary of New Media:
>Eyeline Match
>An editing rule: the alternation of two shots, the first showing a
>character looking off-screen, the second showing what he's looking at.
>A rough sense of scale and distance is kept, but not necessarily
>perspective-that is, every Point-of-View Shot is an eyeline match, but
>every eyeline match is not necessarily a POV shot.
>On Mar 14, 2004, at 9:25 PM, gloria monti wrote:
>>        *Film Art* 7th edition states:
>>*eyeline match*: shot A presents someone looking at something
>>offscreen, shot B shows us what is being looked at.
>>*POV shot*: a cut from a person looking to what he sees.
>>        Where is the difference, here?   My understanding was always
>>that in a POV shot, the spectator "becomes" the character looking and
>>sees what s/he sees and the character looking is never onscreen.
>>Whereas the eyeline match shows the character looking and what s/he
>>is looking.  However, FA also states that in the case of the eyeline
>>match, "in neither (A and B) shot are both looker and object present.
>>        Thoughts?
>>        Gloria Monti
>>gloria monti, PH.D.
>>cinema studies program
>>oberlin college
>>10 n. professor st.
>>oberlin, OH 44074
>>phone: 440-775-6015
>>fax: 440-775-8684
>>e-mail: [log in to unmask]
>>"What's your impression of Los Angeles?"
>>"It's a big garage."
>>Jean-Luc Godard
>>Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
>>University of Alabama:
>Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite

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