I noticed this right away, because I am familiar with Rudolf Arnheim’s book The Power of the Center. The film is slowly paced so there was time to think visually – everyone did that instinctively and unconsciously, but I did it intentionally and consciously.
Within a frame, there is sought a center-of-influence. If there is a human form within the frame, the eye will go there with the intent of establishing that human form as the center-of-influence – think of that propensity as the herding instinct – our eye wants to be with that other human.
When divided into quadrants, a psychological value can be assigned to each of the quadrants. The left-hand side is psychologically weak. The lower left is usually an entry point to a scene. This is not where one puts the center-of-influence, unless you want to diminish its power.
Notice Vargas smoking in the prison, he is framed lower left. Not only is he assigned a lower value and he is apart, but he is separated from a very robust human activity in the frame. There is a power dynamic at work relationship between Vargas and that activity. He is nobody, he is nonexistent.
Contrast that scene with the nature panoramas with Vargas in left side or lower left. Here we have a single human form in a “lesser” relationship to nature.
The eye does a balancing act – it wants Vargas to be the center-of-influence but he has been given a very low psychological value. This might explain why some felt the jungle threatening. For some a balance is achieved – Vargas is part of nature.
Notice also the grandson – center frame until he climbs the tree and eats the fruit.
He is placed left-side; given the lower value. It is as if Alonso is saying: the jungle provides.
Nice analysis, and I’m sure it has a lot to do with the audience’s sense of foreboding at Vargas’s entrance into the jungle.
Sure – it tells how people do fear nature as an unknown.
What would be interesting for someone to post a frame shot of the grandson in the tree and then flip it
That is the only film I have access to – I’ll look for his others to hit Netflix
I never noticed that about the framing. Thank you Robert for this insight.
I would still greatly appreciate it if Jerry could find the time to compare frame shots of Fantasma to Los Muertos and La Libertad to show the matching that Alonso did between the films.
This was the first film i have seen in which a convention of visual thinking was carried through the entire film. It worked perfectly with the subject matter.
It is the only film of Alonso’s I have access to, so I am wondering whether he used other visual thinking conventions in his other films in such an obvious way.
Since I never noticed the psychological reasons behind his framing until you mentioned them, I’m not sure if they occur in his other films. There is a good chance they did. You still have access to Fantasma via the Directors’ Cup streaming link. Go to the DC link page or the voting page for the Throne of Blood – Fantasma match. I feel like Fantasma is the perfect film to watch after you have seen Los Muertos, although having seen La Libertad first is also nice….
It would work much better matching clips…let me see what I can come up with…
I agree, clips would be better. Thanks for taking the time!
Thanks for this, Robert. I was very impressed with Los Muertos without thinking in these terms and without the context of its formal relationship to Alonso’s others films which Jerry has sketched out for us. I’ve since seen Fantasma as part of the Cup competition, so now I want to look at Los Muertos again and seek out La libertad and Liverpool.