Often this is done by presenting subjects in a 3/4 view, over-the-shoulder shots, depth-of-field or off-centering the subject to create visual interest. While Wes Anderson doesn’t ignore these traditional techniques, he rarely employs them, opting instead for the planimetric approach. His technique is further emphasized through meticulous technical mastery. Aside from the linear, frontally-focused framework of the planimetric schematic, Anderson has brilliantly achieved bilateral symmetry within these shots, throughout the oeuvre of his work.
Even after tracking shots or pans the camera always lands in a perfectly centered, symmetrical shot. He also employs what Bordwell calls “compass-point editing,” which essentially places the camera at the center of a compass, and the cuts jump from zero to 180 degrees (the reverse shot) or at 90 degrees (the action in profile) (Bordwell 2007). This planimetric, flat approach, as Anderson discusses, was intentional to create the look of a storybook. Though this was deliberately employed for Moonrise Kingdom, this technique is consistent throughout all of his films.
Thusly, there is a visual correlation between the planimetric shot and the storybook/children’s literature. Through observing Kitano Takeshi’s use of planimetric shots, Bordwell writes, “the image suggests a kind of childish simplicity or naive cinema (Bordwell 2007). ” In comparison with children’s literature, images are made simple and straight-forward for young readers to understand. When asked as about his choice to use a planimetric approach, specifically in scenes with dialogue, Kitano replied, “When we are speaking, this is the way we look toward each other.
It’s the most natural way to show a conversation (Bordwell 2007). ” Outside of being simple, this approach makes the the gesture of speaking recognizable: these two characters are speaking to one another. As children are beginning to read, illustrations are imperative to the comprehension of the text (Hladikova 2014). Hence, one voice paired with a singular, centered image makes it easy for readers or viewers to identify text with speaker.
Generally speaking, Wes Anderson’s audience is comprised of adults who don’t necessarily need to rely on the simplicity of image to understand who is peaking. However, the simplistic imagery expresses the desire for simplicity in the world. James MacDowell notes “this style also hints at a kind of naivete – these shots’ boldness and simplicity often seemingly intentionally purified, bespeaking an effort to remake the world in a less chaotic form (MacDowell 2012). ” A prevailing theme in Anderson’s narrative oeuvre is the conflation and complications of adulthood, a notion so relatable to adult audiences (MacDowell 2012).
The juxtaposition of simple, storybook imagery with stories reflecting mature narratives further emphasizes how complicated adulthood can be, and idealizes elements of childhood. This is particularly apparent in Moonrise Kingdom, a film whose main protagonists are two young adolescents: Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), a runaway Khaki Scout (fictional Boy Scouts), and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), an avid reader misunderstood by her family and peers.
Sam and Suzy decide to run away into the wilderness of the idyllic fictional island, New Penzance, first out of love for one another, second to escape the confines and struggles of the adult world around them, including Suzy’s two lawyer parents (Bill Murray and Francis McDormand) in a sterile marriage, the bumbling Khaki Scout Master (Edward Norton), and a lonely island policeman (Bruce Willis). Though a narrative about children, Moonrise Kingdom addresses adult issues of love (or the lack thereof), newfound sexuality, infidelity, parenting, identity, and the sense of belonging.
Sam and Suzy, traversing through the wilderness, equally must navigate the rocky terrain of their own maturation while finding their place in the complicated adult world. The adult world is confining for the two central characters, and as Anderson points out, “unhappiness is part of their reason to run away (Babb 2012). ” This is immediately established at the open of Moonrise Kingdom when we are introduced to the Bishop family in their home.
The home is presented much like a dollhouse, allowing the camera to pan from room to room, through the square frames of doorways and windows, showing us a day in the life of the members of the Bishop family during a rainstorm. The characters are confined by the lines of the structural elements of their home, a visual that is further emphasized by Anderson’s signature symmetrical planimetric composition. Similarly found in children’s books, this linear presentation creates visual codes for the viewer.
Moebius notes, “often, an emphasis on rectangular shapes is coupled with a problem, or with an encounter with the disadvantages of discipline or civilized life. ” Lines and rectangles often appear in the mies-en-scene, signifying the struggle with adulthood a. k. a civilized life. For Suzy, the Bishop home is the sight of oppression and misunderstanding; she is quite literally struggling with the “disadvantages of discipline” from her parents, thus forcing her to run away into the wide-open of New Penzance with Sam.
Wes Anderson regularly employs these “dollhouse shots” (Seitz and Anderson 2013, Bordwell 2014) as a fantastical, unrealistic view of the entirety of a setting, showing the cross-sections of multiple rooms with the appearance of no fourth wall or retainer. These shots emphasizes that this multi-layered indoor space is the stage where inciting incident, conflict, and resolution will all take place. Like the Bishop house, these are all homes of adults, and thusly the sights of conflict.
This is equally evident in Fantastic Mr. Fox. When Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) first moves into his tree-house. In a similar establishing scene, we see the movers and the inhabitants settling into their new home. Though the tree is an organic form, the rooms are all uncharacteristically square and neatly organized within the structure. The tree becomes a place of scheming, familial friction, and eventual danger for the foxes, who have a difficult time coexisting amongst three dastardly farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean.
We find these rectilinear shapes repeated in the rows of shelves and annexes of these farmers. They are establishments of antagonists who act as disciplinary figures of the harsh human world and subsequently sites of rebellion, as Mr. Fox steals the prized products housed in these rectangular spaces. We return to the dollhouse shot at the end of the film when, having been forced out of their homes by the farmers, the Fox Family and their animal community find refuge in the underground sewer system, compartmentalized in square confines.
Adding to the dominant storybook theme, Wes Anderson is iconic for his use of bright block colors, a quality that can be viewed under the sense of naivete (McDowell). Anderson works in a noticeable chromatic color pallet, allowing for strong primary and secondary colors to pop on the screen. Illustrator Ann Marie Flinn explains that many times, there are a limited number of colors repeatedly occurring through the whole book, the rest complimenting them. This technique provides “continuity and the feeling of wholeness within the book (Hladikova 2014).
Quite similarly, Anderson employs one primary or secondary color, and paints the mise-en-scene in a analogous color scheme. In storybooks, these colors can be picked to compliment the setting, theme, or mood of the story (Hladikova 2014). In Moonrise Kingdom the dominant color is green, pointing to the lush vegetation of the island of New Penzance, complimented analogously by the brown Khaki Scout uniform and “pops” of yellow (the Khaki Scout kerchief, suitcase, and tent).
Fantastic Mr. Fox relies on an autumnal pallet rich in oranges and yellows, complemented by the Fox family’s orange fur, Mr Fox’s tan corduroy suit, and Mrs. Fox’s yellow dress. As Finn notes, the analogous color schemes create a sense of continuity within the story, adding to the fantastical feel of these worlds, but also creates continuity throughout Anderson’s colorful oeuvre. Much like the the striking illustrative style and pallet of children’s books – Madeline’s strong greens, blues, and yellows, or the richly hued paintings of Eric Carle – Anderson has created an extremely distinctive, consistent visual style.