"What makes a Coen Brothers film look like a Coen Brothers film?"
Jacob T. Swinney poses the question in the description for his most recent video, which takes a look at the consistent use of POV shots throughout their films:
One stylistic element that seems to be rather prominent in all their films is the POV shot. The Coens tend to utilize the POV shot to better submerse us in a scene, but the shot is often used to simply give us a unique perspective that can only be created through cinema.
Here are the films in this video:
- Blood Simple (1984)
- Raising Arizona (1987)
- Miller's Crossing (1990)
- Barton Fink (1991)
- The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
- Fargo (1996)
- The Big Lebowski (1998)
- O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
- The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
- Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
- The Ladykillers (2004)
- No Country for Old Men (2007)
- Burn After Reading (2008)
- A Serious Man (2009)
- True Grit (2010)
- Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
While you can argue that a few aren't technically POV shots, they are all in the same style, giving us a different perspective from a unique point of view. The Coens continue making memorable films, and while they certainly have a tremendous vision for their projects, another common element has given their films a consistent quality: the cinematography of Roger Deakins.
Deakins has shot most of their films, and he's widely considered one of the best DPs working right now. His 12 Academy Award nominations certainly back that up — with a few of those being Coen Brothers films. It's likely that this collaboration has had a tremendous impact on the visual style throughout the career of the Coens, and it's another lesson in how important it is to have a DP that goes beyond just making pretty pictures — but actually understands what cinematography can add to the narrative.
Check out more of Jacob's terrific videos over on his Vimeo page.