John Carpenter: Master of Perspective

Do you see what I see?
By  · Published on June 2nd, 2017

Do you see what I see?

Perspective is everything, especially when it comes to storytelling. Perspective is the first facet to establish atmosphere: if the perspective is objective, we know what we’re being show is meant to be taken as actual and matter-of-fact; if the perspective is subjective, we know to take what we see with a grain of salt, said grain’s size dependent upon just whose subjective gaze we’re seeing through.

When it comes to cinematic perspective, few directors are as adept at working in the realm of the subjective as is horror master John Carpenter, who throughout his career has utilized limited points of view not just to inform his narratives, but establish and advance them. Think of Halloween, which alternates between Laurie’s perspective – looking out the window at school, for example – Michael Myers’ perspective, and an objective, third person perspective. Or what about They Live, which is wholly dependent on Nada’s subjective perspective, specifically through the sunglasses?

Carpenter’s approach to perspective is the focus of the following video essay from Christopher Small and James Corning for MUBI, in which visual examples are provided to illustrate the various ways Carpenter employs and manipulates point of view for his audiences.

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