Which Director Mastered Shooting Faces Like No Other?

'Persona'Credit: Criterion
Are you ready for your close-up? 

Cinema is an empathy machine that allows people all over the world to identify with one another and walk a mile in one another's shoes. We do this through creative uses of cinematography that allow the audience to think and feel like the character. There really is some magic to working in this industry. But not all directors are as talented at bringing out these concepts to their audiences. 

One of the basic ways everyone tries to gain empathy within characters is to shoot close on the face. A talented actor can use their face to describe any situation, and a talented director knows when and how to frame that face for the desired effect. But as we said, they're not all created equal. 

You've heard of the Spielberg face, which made the director famous for capturing wonderment and awe, but what about the Bergman face? How did Ingmar Bergman revolutionize how we shoot faces and influence everyone that came after him? 

Check out this video from Thomas Flight, and let's talk after the jump. 

Which Director Mastered Shooting Faces Like No Other? 

Ingmar Bergman was a Swedish director behind such cinematic masterpieces as The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Persona, and Fanny & Alexander.

One thing Bergman did that goes beyond anyone of the time was shoot faces. His close-ups were done with elegance, changing the shadows on faces, shooting from different angles, and reinventing boring compositions.

He was creative with his camera angles

Bergman's films were intimate and focused on characters dealing with personal situations. Whether that's coming of age or playing chess with death, he used faces to carry the emotional weight of the film and used his angles to inform the audience how to think and feel. 

All of Bergman's skills are on display in Persona, an intimate story of two women, where we track their feelings about the world and each other based mostly on their faces. In this film he outdoes himself, using stark black and white, shadows, mist, and sheer cloths to shroud faces, hide emotions, give big reveals, and even drape characters. We're enveloped in a world where two faces slowly become one. 

There's a lot you can learn from his shots, but they probably don't apply to just any movie genre. I can't imagine using a Bergman-esque close-up in an action or adventure movie, or even a comedy, but I think the idea behind them, of beautiful and thoughtful portraiture, could actually resonate if more directors paused on actors and let them do the work with their faces. 

If nothing else, Bergman proved that it's not just about shooting a face, but doing so inventively so that the audience feels connected. These don't have to be boring shots or inserts—they can be artistic, creative. They are as difficult to light and execute as the most complicated of cinema shots. 

Let us know what you think of Bergman's faces in the comments.      

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