Filmmakers use a lot of tricks to up the anxiety of a scene—music, sound mixing, lighting, color. And then there's this trick: an ever so slight tilt of the camera.
Even without all of the other stuff, the second you take the world off its axis, things start to feel a little...off, or at least a little more interesting. That camera tilt, which you'll see everywhere from blockbuster movies to perfume commercials—it's called a lot of things. But most often, you'll see it referred to as the "Dutch angle." It's a stylistic choice whose roots are based not in film but in fine art.
Let's get this out of the way. The Dutch angle isn't actually Dutch; it's "Deutsch," as in German for "German." Its origins trace back to World War I when the German government banned the import of foreign films.
So, while over in Hollywood, the movie business was booming with Charlie Chaplin joints, racist Tarzan adaptations, and other straightforward happy-ending-type flicks, in Germany, movies were starting to look a little...different. Instead of turning to Hollywood for inspiration, German filmmakers turned to the arts. And at that time, a movement called "expressionism" had taken hold, primarily in Germany and Austria.
Expressionism is famously hard to define, but you can think of it as roughly the opposite of impressionism. Impressionists, like Monet, Degas, and Renoir, painted things like this: floaty, lovely, soft scenes. And expressionists, like Kirchner, Beckmann, and Dix, painted things like this. One more time, for emphasis.
While impressionists were interested in producing spontaneous but always refined versions of reality, expressionist painters were focused on depicting a subjective version of a world in turmoil, grappling with the horrors of war and the anxiety of modern life. Figures are distorted and painted roughly, often tossed about at impossible angles. Colors are intense and unrealistic. Scenes are eerie, even nightmarish. It's harsh and dark in both content and execution, all of which translated pretty well to film.
Starting in 1920, with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a German silent horror movie about a hypnotist who uses his sleepwalking patients to kill by proxy. It's got the distorted figures, by way of outlandish makeup, harsh angular lighting, and, in place of the exaggerated perspective of painting, the whole movie is noticeably askew but not because of camera work. The set is literally tilted, with sidewalks that lead nowhere, walls arranged seemingly at random, and buildings that look poised to collapse, all rendered in stark graphic lines by a trio of expressionist painters.
從 1920 年的《卡里加里博士的小屋》開始，這是一部德國無聲恐怖電影，講述一個催眠師借夢遊症患者之手殺人。片中的人物因古怪的妝容而顯得扭曲，還有刺眼的斜角照明，而且整部電影用明顯的歪斜取代誇大的繪畫視角，但這不是透過運鏡達到的效果。場景本身就是傾斜的，有永無止境的人行道、似乎隨意排列的牆壁，以及看起來快要倒塌的建築物，這些全都由三位表現派畫家以鮮明的線條呈現。
When The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari came out, it was a revelation. Critics called it "startling," "weird," "sensational," "the most remarkable picture ever shown!" They lauded its great acting and innovative story. There's a killer surprise twist at the end. But, mostly, it was that set design that excited people. Those turns and tilts enhanced the movie's suspense and distortion. Caligari was hailed a prophecy, ushering in a new art-centric era for movies. And though critics couldn't quite yet agree on which art movement it belonged to, that prophecy kind of came true. Expressionist classics, like Metropolis and Nosferatu, soon followed, using that same lighting, drama, and, of course, Dutch angles—this time, using the camera to tilt the scene instead of the set.
From there, the Dutch angle spread to noir films, featuring prominently in Citizen Kane and The Third Man. Then it broke into thrillers, specifically Hitchcock's thrillers, like The Birds, Strangers on a Train, and the lesser-known The Lodger, which, the man himself said, was heavily influenced by expressionism.
That picture showed a strong German influence.
By the '60s, a very different genre picked it up. 1966's Batman famously gave each villain their own specific tilt. And from there, the angle really took off—action movies, musicals, comedies, even commercials.
到了 60 年代，一個截然不同的電影類型也開始使用該技法。1966 年版的《蝙蝠俠》因給予每個反派獨特的傾斜角度而出名。從那時起，斜角鏡頭變得非常流行－－出現在動作片、音樂片、喜劇片，甚至廣告當中。
Today, it's featured across basically every genre, to varying degrees of success. Movies like 2000's Battlefield Earth and 2011's Thor have been criticized for using the tilt as a crutch. But, filmmakers like Spike Lee, Terry Gilliam, and Tim Burton all really seem to get it: tilting a shot to highlight tension or distortion or underscore a film's dystopian confusion, keeping the spirit of expressionism alive.
時至今日，幾乎所有類型的電影都看得到斜角鏡頭，成果有好有壞。電影像是 2000 年的《地球戰場》和 2011 年的《雷神索爾》，就被批評太過仰賴斜角鏡頭。但是像史派克．李、泰瑞．吉連和提姆．波頓等製片人，似乎就有掌握精隨：用傾斜的視角凸顯對峙和扭曲，或強調片中反烏托邦的混亂感，讓表現主義的精神得以延續下來。
註一：其實 Dutch angle 應該要翻譯成「德國式鏡頭」才對，但因為剛開始被錯譯成「荷蘭式鏡頭」，後來就以訛傳訛，許多人仍然會這樣稱呼。
- 「非常、極其」- ever so
And then there's this trick: an ever so slight tilt of the camera.
- 「變強、確立地位」- take hold
And at that time, a movement called "expressionism" had taken hold,
- 「設法處理、解釋」- grapple with
expressionist painters were focused on depicting a subjective version of a world in turmoil, grappling with the horrors of war and the anxiety of modern life.
- 「準備要、快要」- (be) poised to
and buildings that look poised to collapse,
- 「流行、走紅」- take off
And from there, the angle really took off—