I choose this scene because I really enjoyed the suspense and tension that Dark was able to evoke and the way that it weaved the stories of around thirty characters together. I choose to deconstruct this early scene because the story hasn’t developed enough to be an important contributor to creating dramatic tension or build many connections between the story arcs.
I believe that this is one of the major devices used to create an unsettling suspense throughout the series – the camera is almost never still. The camera follows characters as they walk, run and ride, or subtly tracks in or away from wide shots and close ups that would typically be static. The audience has to take in details of a location or the emotions being portrayed while also feeling like they are being pulled or pushed by the frame. This floating camera movement causes the environment at the edge of frame to constantly move around a consistently framed subject, this makes me feel like I am on is never on stable ground, quite literally, I am not able to have a static moment to just sit and observe, feel settled thus safe, because big percentages of the image are always changing.
The other camera movement that I wanted to note is at the 1:00 mark of the clip. We are following Ulrich running in a wide shot from behind, cut to a close up of his face and his eyes momentarily look to his right. This eye movement is highlighted by the first higher note of the violin that we have heard during this sequence of running and this note carries us through the cut to the next shot that shows us what Ulrich looked at. As Ulrich runs ahead, the camera maintains its momentum but sweeps to the right towards a wooden sign pointing towards the Winden Caves in the opposite direction. For me, this was a great moment to see how subtle an action can be to make an audience want to know what was looked being looked. A clear but momentary deviation from the forward focus of Ulrich’s gaze, in an image that had a lot of movement, was enough to propel us to the introduction of the caves.
As the camera sweeps closers to the sign the violin note slides to something discordant before being swallowed by a deep drum roll. We cut to the cave entrance and, without the runner to justify the speed, we fall quickly towards it like it is sucking the camera and as we get closer something screams at us from inside.
Almost every shot places the subject at the centre of the frame – the only exception is the turning point of the conversation when Jonas stops walking, but even then, the camera operator moves to bring the two actors into balance. Many people have recognised the use of centre framing by Kubrick to create tension, Renée (2017) describes the effect as ‘eerie’ and Oseman (2017) says that he creates ‘worlds of perfect order… so perfect that they would have to come crashing down sooner or later’. Oseman’s reason doesn’t quite work for building tension in Dark, the world is anything but perfect, but (knowing the story) I can see a reason for ‘duplicity […] the two characters appear to replace each other on screen every time you cut’. Neither of these really satisfy me as justification for the sensation that they cause, perhaps a character in the centre of the frame directing most of their energy in the direction of the camera is confronting for the audience because it feels like they are coming for you. Or, the space that is around them feels like something could come from anywhere.
This frame is also from a low angle, which accentuates the height of the trees and really gives you the sense they are looming over the characters.
During the conversation, even though we can only see woods, the soundscape is really busy with faint grumbles of traffic or a plane and construction. If we hadn’t seen the depth of the woods that lined the roads in previous shots it might noticeably oppose the environment. This is opposition is really interesting though: we are definitely not in a Disney forest where the birds are singing, there may be a few caws but nothing bright, the rest of the town is close so it isn’t exactly a private space but we are far away enough away from them that they cannot be seen or offer any safety. These elements support the tone of the conversation that is not an easy, casual walk in the park.
Oseman, Neil 2017, ‘9 Uses for Central Framing’, Neil Oseman, 18 June, viewed 3 May 2018, <http://neiloseman.com/9-uses-for-central-framing/>.
Renée, V 2017, ‘ 3 Different Ways You Can Use Central Framing in Your Films’, No Film School, 2 January, viewed 3 May 2018, <https://nofilmschool.com/2017/01/3-different-ways-use-central-framing-films>.