The Dynamic Frame: Camera Movement in Classical Hollywood

5.14 They Live by Night

Director Nicholas Ray could have used a crane and a wide-angle lens to juxtapose the three men and the billboard, but a helicopter allows him to shoot the scene from farther away with a telephoto lens, registering the human figures and the billboard at a comparable scale. As the camera follows the thieves from above, the billboard appears out of nowhere, popping into the frame from below. This strange composition, with its flattened space and its unpredictable scaling, mocks the absurdity of postwar consumer culture.

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