Friday Fundas: Reaction Shot

Reaction Shot 

In this week’s Friday Fundas we would see one of the basic units of film grammar – Reaction Shot.

A Reaction shot is the one where the camera moves away from the main sequence to show the reaction of a character to the main sequence. It could be a response to a dialogue or an event in the preceding shot. Reaction shots are usually a medium close up shot.

The famous shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is a great example of a reaction shot. You see the killer approaching the shower and opening the screen. Immediately the next shot is the woman screaming and then the scene shifts back to the killer and proceeds from there. This might appear to be trivial. Now try to imagine the entire sequence without this single shot you would not feel connected to it.

Reaction Shot - Psycho

Reaction Shot – Psycho

The reaction shot is usually present in the shooting script. When the screenplay is written there would be no mention of the reaction shot but when the script is converted to a shooting script there would be mentions of reaction shot.

Usually this is determined by the director’s vision for the script.

Panchathanthiram
Panchathanthiram

In a comedy film the reaction shots play a very important role in making audience laugh. If you can think of comedy movies like Panchanthanthiram you would now be able to relate to some of the very effective reaction shots.

Usually the reaction shot occurs post the actual main shot. However many film makers have improvised on this to show a reaction shot before the actual main shot to make it more dramatic.

Jurassic Park - Reaction Shot
Jurassic Park – Reaction Shot

In the movie Jurassic Park as the crew is taken for the first tour around the Park they spot the huge herbivores walking around. Initially Spielberg shows the reaction of the people in the Jeep and then later shows the actual scene to which they are reacting to. This is the first time the audience see a full dinosaur in the movie and this just increases the anticipation and prepares the audience for something spectacular.

Few directors have omitted reaction shots on certain occasions to create a suspense that would be later revealed in the movie.

Sixth Sense Restaurant Scene
Sixth Sense Restaurant Scene

In the movie Sixth sense restaurant scene director Manoj Night Shyamalan does not show many reaction shots during the most part of the conversation Crowe’s wife’s face is not shown. Only later when she is signing the cheque her face is shown which works effectively to conceal the secret the climax would reveal later.

Whether reaction shots are present or not present they are very essential to the visuals. Effective use of it is elementary to an engaging movie.

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