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photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM Reflections and mirrors in film







Reminded of the classic uses of mirrors in film, such as those in Renoir’s Regle du Jeu, by looking at Darren Hughes’ clever ‘movie still’ in his profile page in the new version of Long Pauses. The page I was reading was his post on Fred Brakhage. {wiki:Stan Brakhage}

In Regle du Jeu, I thought there was a mirror shot within the complex tracking shot involving the opening and closing of a wardrobe door, a corridor and two rooms, but as yet can’t find it!

There is one like that in The Million Pound Note. Though according to this, there is one scene where the cameraman can be seen in the mirror.

In another shot in Le Regle du Jeu , a pan involving the Countess, Christine de la Cheyniest, played by Nora Gregor, coming out of one door and entering another on a landing, the mirror is used to extend the shot. There is no need to move the camera to do a shot of the maid: the maid moves into view in the mirror on the right as Christine moves towards the mirror on her left. Then her maid, Lisette, is seen with Christine on the landing without her reflection. Christine moves to a door with a flunkie standing outside, leaving Lisette with the dog in the foreground. She enters. As she does so, we can see the closed door of the room she has left.

At the end of La Regle du Jeu, Octave is getting ready to leave. Again Renoir uses a mirror to extend the shot, showing the door behind him through which he is about to leave. Within the shot he walks towards the camera to get his hat and returns to the set position. While he does, we can see him getting his hat in the reflection. Towards the end he can be seen looking at his own reflection in the mirror: staring in a sudden realisation, over the shoulder of Lisette.

Without the mirror, walking out of shot towards the camera won’t look right. With the mirror there is no need to set up another shot to show him unhooking his hat.

Came across this forum in MUBI [formerly Auteurs] with quite a few examples of stills and movie sequences sent in by the debaters. The topic is ‘reflections and mirrors’  which slightly widens it out a bit.  Please post in any films with reflections you like.

The one at the top is from Regle du Jeu.  One can always make obvious remarks and seem slightly naive about film-making, but I can see in my mind’s eye the image being noticed by Renoir as he looks for the first time at  the set up created for him by the cinematographer. He has asked for the maid (in black) to seem to be the reflection of the Contess, but when he sees what has been done for him, sacred blue, he is impressed.

Godard talked about guns and girls, but this is surely as much why men and women nearly kill themselves to make films.





O.k. this is Berman – you get the idea.  In fact you more than get it: you’ve seen films, or documentaries of films being made, in which directors look at the cinematographs set-up and start enthusing.

There is also that thing about a cinematographer catching a light effect while filming a shot which is seen by director for the first time in the rushes. “Wahddisdat? BriiilliaNt! Cut it in ” [THICK GUTTERAL GERMAN-AMERICAN  ACCENT]

A real chateau was used for Regle du Jeu. It would be interesting to know if the interiors were sets or chateau. If chateau, there would have been a time when, on arrival and initial shufti, the possibilities of the mirrors became apparent and were probably included in the working script. If he chose the chateau partly for its mirrors before the script was written, then he really was a clever chap.

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Below a cut and paste of photo a quoter quoting a book:





Film noir often uses mirrors as symbols of a person’s dual nature.

Quote from Dev Anand: Dashing Debonair by Alpana Chowdhury (p.43).

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P D Smith reviews what looks like a must have for the generally curious, film mirror lovers and narcissists:

Mirror, Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection
by Mark Pendergrast 404pp
Basic Books, £19.99

August 6, 2010 - Posted by | cinematography, cognitive illusion, cognitive science, culture, director of photography, film directors, film narrative, film still, film techniques, Fred Brakhage, perception, Renoir | ,

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