Dance for Camera – Film Analysis: “Reines d’un jour”

In freshman seminar, we are currently learning about dance film and the abilities of manipulating the way one views dance in ways that are different from viewing it on a stage. Changing the angle from which the viewers see, showing only a certain range, or even distorting the image are possibilities with dance film that I am being introduced to in this class. I viewed the dance film “Reines d’un jour” by Swiss artist Pascal Magnin and analyzed the unique elements that choices that made the work.

The angle and position of the camera is one of the main factors that heightened the viewers’ perception of the work. The most interesting scene that this was used in was the opening scene – the ‘rolling scene’. The camera’s position was low and tilted up towards the dancers that descended from above it. This angle created a dynamic view, and as the dancers fell down the hill, I could feel the their gravity and weight pull them down.

rolling scene
Dancers moving down the incline – Pascal Magnin’s “Reines d’un jour”

When a new scene or subject was introduced in the film, I noticed that the camera’s position started very near and gradually pulled further away to reveal the whole picture or story. The ‘shoe scene’ is a very good example of this technique that was used. In the first scene of the ‘shoe scene’ I was introduced to a woman moving precariously along a wall, then I was shown the woman’s feet tiptoeing into different pairs of shoes, later the full dancer was shown and surroundings around her. I believe that using this technique in dance film keeps the audience very interested, as we are not following an entirely literal story line; we see the story unfold as our field of vision grows.

Throughout most of the film, the camera’s position was usually fairly close to the dancers. This created a feeling of intimacy, and this feeling was definitely reflected in the movement, especially in scenes such as the ‘bull scene’ and the ‘blowing scene’. One could feel the weight of the dancers against each other as the moved like the fighting bulls and see the initiation of the blows and what they affected in movement. If the camera were positioned further away than it was, I feel that a connection would have been lost between the dancers and the viewers. I distinctly remember that during the ‘blowing scene’, the camera showed a view of the surrounding landscape – what I can assume to be the Alps. This change in frequency encompassed not only the dancers but also the surrounding environment. I had completely left the location of the dance unconsidered until those few shots of the mountains.

The last scene of the film – the ‘water scene’ was drastically different from the rest of the film. The scene was shot from a distance, was very moody in lighting, and the movement was very slow; the scene had an all-over dream-like feel. This was a sharp contrast from the lively movement and bright beginning. After looking into the meaning of the film, I realized that this contrast was to demonstrate that the beginning scenes showed life and dance, the last scene was meant to represent death. The change in mood definitely conveyed that message to me, and I believe that it was very effective.

water scene
A dark contrast from the majority of the film – Pascal Magnin’s “Reines d’un jour”

A very good example on the available techniques to use to effectively convey movement and message, this film has shown me many great examples of what I can use when creating my own film.

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