My film must have a potent and expressive opening shot. This was made very clear to me by my friend, Thomas Ethan Harris, a film consultant and instructor. At his most recent film seminar, “Creating a More Visually Comprehensive Cinema,” Thomas stressed the importance of a film’s opening shot.
To illustrate his point, Thomas showed the opening shot of Citizen Kane (1941), directed by Orson Welles. It instantly evokes the danger, mystery, and resistance embodied by the main character and the film itself.
The opening shot of the film Citizen Kane (1941), directed by Orson Welles.
Below are two of my favorite opening shots. First, Sofia Coppola opens Lost in Translation (2003) with a static shot of a woman’s behind. Be assured, this is much more than a sexually charged image; Ms. Coppola is an intelligent filmmaker, hence, careful not to objectify female characters.
The opening shot of film Lost in Translation (2003), directed by Sofia Coppola.
This shot is about guarded intimacy. We see the woman’s backside in a dimply lit room. Her undergarment is partially transparent, revealing much, but not all. It suggests that we will get to know the characters privately, but not fully.
And perhaps, with this revealing image, Ms. Coppola establishes her own vulnerability as the writer and director of the film.
A second opening shot that I love is Saint Francis and his disciples treading down a muddy road under freezing rain in Roberto Rossellini’s, The Flowers of St. Francis (1950).
The opening shot of the film The Flowers of St. Francis (1950), directed by Roberto Rossellini.
Rather than interpret this shot, I thought a saying of Jesus would be apropos for this spiritual film: “For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Thanks to my friend Thomas, I will approach the opening shot of my film with intent. In fact, I already have a pretty good idea what it will be! Here’s a link to Thomas Ethan Harris‘ superb seminars!
What are some of your favorite opening shots and why? Please leave a comment and let me know…