Camera Movement in Narrative Cinema

Camera movement has a profound influence on the way films look and the way films are experienced by spectators. In this visual essay Jakob Isak Nielsen proposes six major functions of camera movement in narrative cinema. Individual camera movements may serve more of these functions at the same time and the essay concludes with such an example.

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  • Screenplay: Jacob Isak Nielsen
  • Production and editing: Jan Oxholm

The visual essay is an off-shoot of the PhD dissertation Camera Movement in Narrative Cinema: Towards a Taxonomy of Functions (2007). In the dissertation I use “inflection” instead of “expressive” and “focalization” instead of “p.o.v.”. While there are differences between the terms (some are actually discussed in the dissertation) I have opted for more traditional nomenclature in the visual essay.

The entire dissertation can be downloaded here:

Excerpts from: Birdman – Official Teaser (2014) © Iñárritu, Fox Searchlight; Broadway (1929) © Fejos, Universal Studios; Tilblivelsen af The Matrix (1999) © Wachowski bros., Warner Brothers; Princess Mononoke  (1997) © Miyazaki, Scanbox Entertainment; Svengali (1931) © Mayo, Alpha Video; Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo (1966) © Leone, SF Film; Me, Myself and Irene (2000) © Farrelly bros., 20the Century Fox Home Entertainment; Stalker (1979) © Tarkovsky, Another World Entertainment; Rosetta (1999) © Dardenne bros., Artificial Eye; The Shawshank Redemption (1994) © Darabont, Atlantic Film; Okay (2002) © W. Nielsen & Aakeson, Scanbox Entertainment; Halloween (1978) © Carpenter, On Air DVD; The Graduate © Nichols, Studio Canal; Hellzapoppin’ (1941) © Potter, Second Sight; The Passenger (1975) © Antonioni, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; Wings of Desire (1986) © Wenders, DR K; Far and Away (1992) © Howard, Universal; Taxi Driver (1976) © Scorsese, Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment.

Born 1975. Associate Professor, Department of Media and Journalism Studies at Aarhus University (AU), Denmark. Co-editor of and contributor to Fjernsyn for viderekomne– de nye amerikanske tv-serier (Turbine 2011) and Streaming for viderekomne (Turbine, 2020). Founding editor of 16:9 ( Besides publications in 16:9 his work has been published in various books such as Danish Television Drama: Global Lessons from a Small Nation (Palgrave Macmillan 2020), Litteratur mellem medier (2018, Aarhus Universitetsforlag), Transnational Cinematography Studies (Lexington, 2016), A Companion to Fritz Lang (Wiley-Blackwell 2015) and journals such as Journal of Popular Television, Critical Studies in Television, Kosmorama, Northern Lights, Short Film Studies, P.O.V., MedieKultur and Passage. Has also co-written the text book Film i øjet (Dansklærerforeningens Forlag, 2005). Has been part of various research networks and research projects, e.g. What Makes Danish TV Series Travel? (DFF, 2014-2018), ScreenMe (Horizon Twinning, 2021-2023).

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