The Coen Bros.’s POV Shots: Another masterful supercut by Jacob T. Swinney

By on August 26, 2015

As we’ve mentioned many a time, we love supercuts here at Night Flight, and filmmaker and video essayist Jacob T. Swinney’s various editing projects are always among our favorites, and today he’s back again with a supercut of the POV shots from the Coen Brothers’s films, set to Bob Dylan’s “The Man in Me,” which of course graced The Big Lebowski‘s film soundtrack.

JACOB T. SWINNEY COEN BROS POV 2

We’ve previously linked to his Quentin Tarantino 4-part supercut series highlighting four specific areas found in QT’s films, and more recently, to the first two installments of his new 4-part series for Paul Thomas Anderson’s films (the director of Inherent Vice, The Master, There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights and more; Swinney has already highlighted PTA’s use of extreme close-up use of both sight and sound), and if you search on his name here, you can find others we haven’t mentioned.

Nothing quite puts you in the film like a well placed POV shot (which, of course, stands for point of view), an angle that typically shows what a character is looking at. Typically POV shots are placed in between a shot of a character looking at something and a shot showing the character’s reaction, but sometimes POV shots can also be used for inanimate objects.

JACOB T. SWINNEY COEN BROS POV 4

POV shots have been around since at least 1927′s Napoleon, when director Abel Gance filmed a fight scene from Napoleon Bonaparte’s point of view. To achieve the shot, Gance’s cameraman wrapped the camera and lens body in sponge padding and had the actors punch the lens.

By the 1940s, it was not uncommon to see POV shots in just about every flm genre imaginable: horror, mystery, and sci-fi movies all used the technique to captivate and scare audiences. In The Lady in the Lake (1947), the entire movie was shot from the subjective point of view of the movie’s star, Robert Montgomery, and he was only seen in the reflection of windows and mirrors. MGM billed the film with the tagline “You and Robert Montgomery solve a murder mystery together!”

JACOB T. SWINNEY COEN BROS POV 1

Legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock loved the POV shot, and his classic films — from Vertigo to The Birds to Rear Window — all used POV shots in probably the best examples in cinema history. In fact, POV shots were used so often in Rear Window, a Vimeo editor was able to create an entire timelapse of the film just using the POV shots.

JACOB T. SWINNEY COEN BROS POV 3

Once again, we’ve pulled Swinney’s owns comments from his Vimeo page below.

Jacob T. Swinney writes:

With a filmography that covers everything from westerns and gangster flicks to comedies and film noir, it can be rather difficult to pinpoint what exactly contributes to the style of Joel and Ethan Coen. While there are reoccurring themes and ideas that surface throughout the filmmakers’ work, a consistent visual aesthetic is not easily recognized. What makes a Coen Brothers film look like a Coen Brothers film? One stylistic element that seems to be rather prominent in all their films is the POV shot. The Coens tend to utilize the POV shot to better submerse us in a scene, but the shot is often used to simply give us a unique perspective that can only be created through cinema. Here is a look at the Coens’ use of the POV shot throughout their career.

MUSIC: “The Man in Me” by Bob Dylan

Films used:

Blood Simple (1984)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Miller’s Crossing (1990)
Barton Fink (1991)
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
Fargo (1996)
The Big Lebowski (1998)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
The Ladykillers (2004)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Burn After Reading (2008)
A Serious Man (2009)
True Grit (2010)
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

JACOB T. SWINNEY COEN BROS POV 5

Here’s another rather incredible compilation from Jacob T. Swinney’s POV edits from other filmmakers, culled from over 100 different films from a variety of genres:

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.