5 Different Meanings You Can Evoke with Framing

"Framing an image is defining its meaning."

This is the concept at the center of Chloe Galibert-Laîné's excellent video essay that examines the way directors of films released in 2015 have chosen to frame their images. It explores the different ways a frame can be used to communicate to an audience, whether it be a political discourse, a visual metaphor, or even the psychological effects of a certain aspect ratio.

Video is no longer available: vimeo.com/150195073

There is a lot to chew on in this video, but one thing that particularly appeals to me, which I also find important for young filmmakers to know, is the concept of juxtaposition, is when two opposing things are placed near each other to highlight their contrast. This happens in film all the time, and not just with framing.

This happens in screenwriting, say, when two characters, who are opposites of each other, are put together, many times with a common goal. Think of every buddy cop movie, or bromance movie, or literally any movie ever made -- The Odd Couple! Two people move in together and one's super outgoing, messy, and irresponsible, while the other is shy, neat, and conservative. When you put those two people up on screen, that's juxtaposition.

This happens in editing, too. In fact, the Soviet filmmakers responsible for developing the Soviet Montage Theory (Eisenstein, Kuleshov, Pudovkin) essentially invented juxtaposition in editing. Lev Kuleshov famously demonstrated how audiences actually derive more meaning from the interaction of shots than they would simply looking at a single shot.

Another great example, and perhaps a more direct one, of juxtaposition in editing comes from Eisenstein's silent film Strike, which is about the suppression of factory workers as they go on strike. However, one sequence in particular stands out in the film, the one in which images of fleeing workers is cross-cut with images of cattle being slaughtered. This is what Eisenstein called an "intellectual montage", which works by creating a visual metaphor to give new meaning to the sequence. In other words, each sequence, 1.) the fleeing factory workers and 2.) the slaughter of cattle, wouldn't derive the same meaning if they played out separately, but when they're edited together (juxtaposed), they build a powerful message about the way the working class was treated in pre-revolutionary Russia: workers = cattle.

Galibert-Laîné talks a little bit about "deceitful framing", which works by juxtaposing a certain framing over an opposing discourse. In simpler terms, by framing a subject in such a way that it communicates one message, while the narrative communicates another, you are able to create a statement that would otherwise be lost.

She gives an example from Force Majeure. The photo taken at the beginning of the family's vacation has a professional aesthetic in order to communicate that this trip is bound to be perfect, however, as we soon learn, it's far from that.

What was the most helpful part of the video for you? What are your favorite uses of juxtaposition in film? Let us know in the comments!     

Your Comment


Nice, thx

"Mommy" was an interesting framing exercise in recent years.

January 11, 2016 at 12:00AM, Edited January 11, 12:00AM


This essayist said so much, but actually very little at all... A convoluted concoction of ideas that did not illuminate the subtleties of framing to any depth - only the essayists confused analysis process and lack of knowledge and training in cinematography or directing

January 11, 2016 at 1:02AM, Edited January 11, 1:34AM


Agreed Jay. It seemed more like a small commentary on a few points she noticed without a great understanding of framing.

January 12, 2016 at 4:52AM

Gareth Ward
Director of Photography

Yup, royal waste of time, I laughed and stopped watching after the second film...

January 12, 2016 at 5:10AM


I think *sometimes* essayists desperately try to explain intuitive and artistic choices they don't understand with big words they don't understand. I'm not a fan of trying at all costs to reduce art and sensitiveness to an excercise of analysis where you often find more explanation than what's to explain.

January 13, 2016 at 2:01AM

David R. Falzarano
Director / Writer / Editor

I don't agree on Mad Max. (In my few) It's obviously center-framed because of eye-scanning. With all the cuts and explosive action, it would be tiering and hard to follow if the action would switch sides of the frame.

But maybe that is an obvious matter for others?

January 15, 2016 at 10:46AM

Johannes Karpe

"framing an image is a political gesture". Please spare us this kind of nonsense.

April 8, 2016 at 4:41AM, Edited April 8, 4:41AM