August 27, 2015

How the Coen Brothers Have Used the POV Shot Extensively In Their Films

Coen Brothers POV Shots
"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.      

Your Comment

9 Comments

Joe Marine,
you could probably go off and have your own blog some day. You posts are always worth the time. You're the best thing on this web site. You always have been. I hope some day to see you have your own blog with your own team. :-)

August 27, 2015 at 2:03AM

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Gene Nemetz
live streaming
612

Thats not a POV shot. Thats a subjective shot. Not to be a jerk.

August 27, 2015 at 10:13AM

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A lot of those aren't POV shots.

August 27, 2015 at 4:00PM, Edited August 27, 4:00PM

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Nicholas
147

Haha! I've seen this posted a couple other places and no one else was pointing that out. I watched it and was thinking...and whose point of view was THAT? The guy clinging to the side of the school bus? The guy on top of the cop car?

August 27, 2015 at 4:14PM, Edited August 27, 4:14PM

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To quote the article: "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."

August 27, 2015 at 5:02PM

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They're not always the point of view of a person. And it's not always literally through their eyes. That's what makes it unique.

August 28, 2015 at 12:56PM

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Hudsuker Proxy is a grossly underrated film as well as one of my all time favorites. Or maybe Its just me.

August 27, 2015 at 8:24PM

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Steven Arredondo
Photographer/Student/Musician
184

I always felt like they were very influenced by Sam Rami and his use of a stylized POV for the Force shots in "Evil Dead" (https://youtu.be/4MpZBIkIB3I?t=27s), on which Joel was an assistant editor. In fact, I believe that Barry Sonnenfeld, the DP on their first feature "Blood Simple", used the same technique of mounting the camera to 2x4s in the sequence where Marty gets kicked in the balls (https://youtu.be/p6XV7oYBMG4?t=54s).

August 28, 2015 at 10:46AM

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They named the 2x4 camera rig Raimicam, that's pretty telling. Since, I think, Miller's Crossing, they've used long jibs on dolly track, and occasionally Steadicam, to replicate the look and ease of the Raimicam, but in a more subtle and controllable way.

I remember Roger Deakins saying that he thought having a jib on a dolly all day was a waste until he was setting up a shot and the Coens told him to reframe slightly and they had to move the whole track. Now it's one of his preferred methods.

August 28, 2015 at 1:16PM

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Nice discussion and one that needs some attention...but ...
uh...troops...EVERY shot is a POV shot. ALL images have a Point Of View.

The trick is defining that point of view, then being able to understand how it moves the story forward...

- is it 1st person POV? Close observer POV? (2nd person), 3rd person or narrator's POV? Omnipotent POV? (think drone shot following a moving subject from up on high)...these are the main ones - but the list goes on...

Point is - there are all kinds of points of view. The Cohen Brothers make excellent use of what I would call "radicalized" POVs. They are highly effective at using the script to drive their camera work and exaggerate an unexpected or fresh POV.

These different POVs are made manifest in such things as the use of ultra-wide lenses or close-in-personal-space-violation norms that challenge our perceptions...or just the opposite. Whatever serves their purposes to continually engage the audience on more than one level...

But I repeat - there is NOT just one "POV" shot. There are many...it helps your craft to know the distinctions you wish to communicate.

August 28, 2015 at 12:48PM

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Kipp Baker
Producer / Director / Web Communications
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