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EYES LOOKING AT EYES: ps-eye-chology in film

by Martinus
EYES LOOKING AT EYES: ps-eye-chology in film by Martinus
As I was sitting on the subway, I suddenly saw my fellow passengers reduced to only their eyes flashing around in the dark, looking for and avoiding other eyes, and I realized the deep and complex ps-eye-chological world of silent communication. The universal popularity of film is largely founded upon our innate ability and eagerness to look for and read the eyes of our fellow passengers on this planet. Hitchock, in fact one of the cleverest pseyechologists of the screen, understood this very well and developed a visual storytelling technique based upon a simple but very effective mental trick by joining pieces of film together through the… Read more


As I was sitting on the subway, I suddenly saw my fellow passengers reduced to only their eyes flashing around in the dark, looking for and avoiding other eyes, and I realized the deep and complex ps-eye-chological world of silent communication.

The universal popularity of film is largely founded upon our innate ability and eagerness to look for and read the eyes of our fellow passengers on this planet. Hitchock, in fact one of the cleverest pseyechologists of the screen, understood this very well and developed a visual storytelling technique based upon a simple but very effective mental trick by joining pieces of film together through the point of view of the character: character looking – what the character sees – character reacting.





Audience and character become one in a way no other medium can accomplish. He was not the inventor of this technique but no other filmmaker used it so frequently and so effectively as Hitchcock. Rear Window is wholly constructed by using this one powerful cinematic principle.


Walter Murch, the famous editor became convinced “that there was a connection between the patterns of a person’s eye blinks and the patterns of their thoughts. That blinks are the equivalent of mental punctuation marks.” He got the idea while he was editing The Conversation and found confirmation: ‘John Huston had just finished Fat City, and there was an interview with him about the film. The topic of editing came up, and he said to the interviewer, “Look at me. Now look at that lamp. Now look at me. Did you see what you did?” “No.” “Well, you blinked. When you changed subject, you blinked. That’s what the cut is.’ "


The cameralens itself is an eye, but one that cannot blink or show any expression. It’s a one-way eye. It only sucks in images, almost like a black hole. The fear associated with such a mechanical eye is expressed in Peeping Tom and in 2001. In both films we enter at some moments in it’s point of view, which is a frightening and disturbing experience. Who can forget that moment when we enter the point of view of HAL’s red eye and see it reading the lips of the astronauts discussing ‘killing’ HAL.

Kubrick, like all great filmmakers, understood the power of the eyes in cinema and one can find examples of this from Killer’s Kiss till Eyes Wide Shut; all the seduction scenes in Barry Lyndon are masterpieces of eyes looking at looking eyes.




In short filmmaking and watching has a lot to do with the psychology of the eyes. Here a little list of some films and scenes that explore this fascinating world of glances.

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