on Conventions

I saw The King’s Speech with some friends this past Thursday night and I really enjoyed the film. Aside from the compelling, true story and the fantastic acting, the thing that struck me was the film’s complete lack of over-the-shoulder (OTS) shots. At first, I found it a touch confusing because we’ve become so conditioned to the formula of how a conversation should be shot.

The King's Speech

The King’s Speech

However, once I realized that cinematographer Danny Cohen had intentionally ditched the convention, I found it very refreshing. It wasn’t as though the scenes are missing anything, they still include establishing, medium, and close shots. Instead of typical OTS shots, the unique answering shots that he uses (such as the pair above) give a different perspective to the action. The physical space is already established, so at times, the answering shots are nearly POV of the two people speaking. This reinforces the story of the film as it pushes the viewer to focus on whomever is speaking or struggling to speak.

Some say, “you have to know the rules before you can break them.” Cohen certainly does this and does it well in The King’s Speech. By avoiding the convention of OTS shots, he adds a fresh perspective and a variety to his shots that aid the film’s portrayal of a fascinating true story.