All You Need to Know About 'The Dutch Angle'

The goal of true cinematography isn't to steal the show – it's actually supposed to fit the storyline. It's like the decoration on a Christmas tree – breathes in a little life and adds some character. Now, when we speak of cinematography, we refer to a set of typical camera angles – medium, wide, close, etc.

But, there's one camera angle that deserves our attention because it can really add some emotion to the screen. We're talking about none other than the famous "Dutch Angle."


dutch angle


The Dutch Angle, also known as the "Dutch Tilt," is a cinematographic technique wherein the camera is positioned at an angle that helps convey a sense of psychological trauma, emotion (usually negative), and tension. The goal of the Dutch Angle to is to elicit similar emotions in the viewer.

The angle can, basically, be described as being horizontal to the bottom of the shot's frame. You see, it is much easier to convey a greater level of tension and emotions by leveraging a larger perpendicular angle. Of course, the Dutch Angle hasn't stayed the same over the years. Several variations have popped up. For instance, some cinematographers pan the camera while maintaining the Dutch Angle.

As stated earlier, the key goal here is to produce an emotional impact. The angle of a certain shot can help directors convey a range of emotions that are in line with the content being presented on screen. The Dutch Angle has specifically been useful for conveying fear, suspense, mental imbalance, panic, a sense of impending doom, etc.

The technique was first used by Dziga Vertov, in his film ‘Man with the Movie Camera.' The Dutch Angle became quite popular with the German Expressionist cinema movement and was used quite liberally in films of that genre. It was used to convey a sense of disorientation, insanity, and discomfort, etc. Originally, the technique involved changing the angle with each shot. However, as filmmaking evolved, the techniques evolved too.


Now, one of the things you need to know about the Dutch Angle is that it is quite obviously noticeable on screen. It’s not the subtlest of camera angles. So, there is the possibility of overusing the technique, which can either confuse viewers or make things look overdramatic.

As stated earlier, you want the various elements of the film, such as the acting, writing, and of course, the camerawork to carry the plot. You don't want anything to "steal the show." However, misusing the Dutch Angle can lead exactly to that end.

Let’s look at a few examples to learn what’s ideal and what isn’t.

To begin with, let’s look at Thor. Thor is supposed to highlight a magical or heavenly realm. However, the movie didn’t achieve that because it ended up overusing the Dutch Angle. This watered down all the tension and caused a lot of confusion.

Danny Boyle, on the other hand, is a filmmaker who knows how to play with the Dutch Angle. His use of the technique elicits the exact reaction from viewers that he intends. For instance, we’re sure you had a hard time going hiking after watching 127 hours.

In fact, you could even blame him for overusing the Dutch Angle. However, it is how he uses them that makes his movies and camera work stand out. This is what makes Boyle a unique filmmaker.

To conclude, Dutch Angles are excellent tools. They can help your film stand out from everything else, but a certain balance is necessary.

So, to create a sense of despair or discomfort, a Dutch Angle is a perfect choice. It can help raise tensions and engross the viewer. The key is to find out just how much you need to use them. As stated in the beginning, good cinematography blends in with the storyline.

We suggest you watch a number of films that have used the Dutch Angle wisely. One movie that comes to mind is Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards. Then, of course, we have Danny Boyle’s offerings. Once you have a fairly good idea of how to use them, make sure to experiment and see the results.

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