Animation and camera movement in Knives Out (Michel Gondry, 2001)

This video invests the camera with an anthropomorphic identity: as the camera moves around a room, it focuses on a number of different objects and events, depicting events within a relationship. Here the camera is never static or stable, instead it appears to take on a life of its own, seemingly invested with a human eye or identity. This camera movement creates a destabilising effect, which is then carried across in the video’s use of animation, all of which helps to create an unsettling, surreal experience.

As the camera moves around the room, it focuses on a number of specific spaces; each of these spaces denotes a particular setting, including a patient’s hospital room, a bedroom and a television set. As the narrative of the video conveys, the video is depicting the apparent breakdown of a relationship. The camera focuses upon a number of photographs depicting the couple in happier times, later turning to focus on the ill-health of the woman. Seemingly, the camera, if it is invested with a specific human gaze, appears to be effectively looking back through its own memory, continually returning to particular moments in the relationship. This attention to such specific elements of the relationship reinforces this concept of the camera as a human eye, invested with human emotions.

This sense of the human eye can be seen in the frequent use of visual cues, effectively connecting images through free association. This sense of memory and free association can be seen in the video’s opening: depicting a train set placed on top of a television, the camera focuses in on the imagery displayed on the television itself, depicting a couple on an actual train journey. The camera is seemingly reminded of a train journey through the toy train-set, whilst the use of the television forces the viewer to think reflexively on the form of the video itself. We are reminded of the role of the viewer, and in turn the act of spectatorship, through this overt examination of memory.

The camera never fully settles, focusing briefly to depict a particular moment before moving off to focus on something else, as other memories are sparked off by different visual cues. Further evidence of this idea of visual cues and memory association is demonstrated as the camera moves to show a patient’s hospital room. The woman from the train is lying in bed, but only her head and shoulders are visible, with the rest of her body resembling the board game ‘Operation’, resulting in a surreal, disconcerting effect. The use of the board game also links the viewer to the earlier shot of the toy train set.

This concept of a human gaze depicted through the camera itself is most explicitly demonstrated when the viewer witnesses the couple once again on the television screen. A hand is shown rewinding the couple’s prior movements; another screen is then shown, creating multiple television screens, as if the camera is able to conjure and relive memories at will, reflecting upon the events.

 

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