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Dutch angles are consistently found in the film style “film noir”. This style visually features extreme lowlight with hard shadows, or black and white, and will feature harsh horizontal lines cast onto walls created by manipulating shadowsー common in German Expressionism. The stories associated with film noir are usually about the protagonist’s quest for the truth regarding crime and their distrust in enforcement that is supposed to be handling said crime. Popular films in this style include Chinatown, Double Indemnity, The Third Man, and Christopher Nolan’s Memento.

Dutch angle from Carol Reed’s The Third Man

Dutch angles can be symbolic in more ways than one. For example, this angle can reflect the protagonist’s literal inebriation in a scene, making the viewer feel physically uneasy through the use of this extreme angle. We are able to view the world off-center, as the drunk protagonist would see it. This angle is used in a bar scene in Carol Reed’s The Third Man to suggest the protagonist’s inebriation if it wasn’t already made obvious by the character’s actions. It may be argued that Dutch angles can also be symbolic of the protagonist’s distrust in whomever he is speaking to in the scene it’s utilized. In the same film, the Dutch angle is used to also symbolize Holly’s uneasiness while talking to the police, who he’s come to trust less with the suspected murder of his close friend. The uneasiness of this ominous shot reflects the sense of danger that Holly finds himself in with the police. Shooting off of the horizontal line also indicates the moral imbalance that the characters are struggling with in the scene. Because this angle is extremely imbalanced, it can be used to represent a variety of disparities taking place in the scene. This angle is great to use in your own films to add depth to the scene, making the viewer reflect on the purpose of the Dutch angle. 

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

My name is Amanda Precopio, and I am currently a senior Film Media major at the University of Rhode Island. I am one of the Campus Correspondents for URI's HerCampus Chapter!
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