Reading Movies – Roger Ebert

I read recently a nice little piece by Roger Ebert titled “How To Read A Movie

I want to quickly go over a concept of subject positioning that he discusses.

He talks about different areas on the screen having different “intrinsic weightings”.

An interesting idea put very well.

By that [intrinsic weighting] means that certain areas of the available visual space have tendencies to stir emotional or aesthetic reactions.


Before reading Ebert’s piece I had never really considered or thought about the screen like this.

Sure, The Rule of Thirds, but I never considered why.

Ebert goes into saying that the right side of the screen is associated with positive emotion and the left side with negative emotion.

Further, motion from left to right is absorbed as movement towards the future and movement to the left insinuates motion to the past.

I’ve always been fascinated with language and psychological development in cultures who read right to left.

And Ebert mentions a point to this, and surprised me…

Does this apply even to films from cultures that read right to left or top to bottom? From my treks through many Asian films, yes, it seems to.


Very cool to hear that these intrinsic qualities of what is good and bad or seen more positive or negative crosses culture boundaries, and, is evidenced more as a broader intrinsic human quality; opposed to a quality that differentiates through cultures.


Do you think this image of the Beatles would have been so appealing had they been crossing the street in the other direction?


What about this image? Is it more appealing when the ray of sunlight is center-left or center-right?

There is no right or wrong choice, ultimately.

Remember – there are no absolutes.

But, in my opinion the center-right image is more satisfying.

And even as I type this I question my own bias growing up a right hand dominant person and wondering if I just prefer things on the right more so than to the left….nonetheless, whether we ever fully understand it all or not… these are the rules.

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