Jacob T. Swinney’s The Dutch Angle is a relatively straightforward videographic essay. Conceptually, it is simply a supercut of films that use the “Dutch Angle”. The video begins with clips that initially display slight degrees of rotation, which give way to shots where the rotation is increasingly noticeable and severe. Accompanying the astoundingly wide range of Dutch Angle shots is a violin track that builds in intensity, mirroring the increase in rotation which the selected clips illustrate. What really pulls me in though, is not the synthesis of image and audio, nor the wide range of films which this essay draws from. Instead, I am instantly hooked by the “grid” overlay that shows the actual vertical axis that has been manipulated in these shots. There is a white dotted line which runs from the bottom of the frame to the top, such that it maps rotation of the shot. The inclusion of this grid is a defining element of the video, as it undeniably forces the viewer to tilt their head (or even their laptop) so that their point of view is lined up with the “true” vertical axis of the scene. With this grid, Swinney has introduced a mechanism which the viewer feels compelled to respond to. The desire to undo the work of the Dutch Angle forces the viewer to consciously recognize the technique, and in my case, prompted a line of questioning over the actual intent of framing a shot with a tilted vertical axis.
Swinney also does an excellent job of contrasting close-ups with relatively rare though arguably just as effective medium shots. In his description for the video, Swinney details the conventions of the Dutch Angle shot. He notes that it is often used to disorient the viewer, or to alert them to the gravity/peculiarity of a situation. Along these lines, I noticed that close-ups shot with a Dutch Angle were typically less disorienting and tended to be shots from scenes from films which would be considered emotionally driven and intimate. Medium shots on the other hand, were often quite nauseating, as it was clear that the vertical axis of the entire narrative world was thrown off, not just the personal experience of just one or two characters.
I find that Swinney’s work creates one of the most compelling arguments in favor of the “supercut” videographic essay. As Kevin Lee spoke to during Tuesday’s class, the commercialization or “Buzzfeed-ization” of videographic essays can stigmatize certain modes of the medium, the supercut in particular. It’s easy to assume that a supercut is just a mishmash of films highlighting a certain theme, but Swinney has created a video that demands to be paused and re-watched so that viewers can look at the work from a new angle.