Dutch angle: The camera shot that's actually German
The word "Dutch" has made its way into various expressions and colloquial phrases, and even made its way to Hollywood with a film and photography technique commonly known as the Dutch angle. But what is the Dutch angle camera shot? And why is it actually German?
The Dutch angle: What is it?
Also known as the Dutch tilt, the Dutch angle is a type of camera shot used in photography and film that places the subject at a (slight) angle. Examples of this technique can be found throughout modern cinema and television, putting actors and scenes at funny angles.
In technical terms, this visual is achieved by tilting the camera along the X-axis so that the horizon line in the shot is not parallel with the bottom line of the camera frame.
The angle is typically used to portray a feeling of tension or distress or to unsettle the viewer. This means the camera angle originally was particularly popular in the horror and thriller genres, but as cinema and television have evolved, so too has the technique. Nowadays, you could see the Dutch angle in almost any kind of visual media, from stock images and selfies to award-winning films.
Is the Dutch angle actually Dutch - or is it German?
Dig a little deeper, and you'll find that the history of this cinematic technique is actually very interesting! In order to understand where the term “Dutch angle” comes from, you have to go all the way back to the 1910s, when Europe was on the brink of war. The German government was quick to take control of the national film industry, monitoring all the content and output of prevalent German filmmakers and banning all foreign media.
This meant that the German film industry took a very different approach to cinema, as the medium developed a distinct voice and tone largely influenced by German and Austrian expressionist painters such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Beckmann. As a result, German cinema of the era was filled with haunting imagery and awkward angles, giving films such as The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920) - a film largely credited with pioneering the Dutch angle - a very distinct tone and look.
You may be wondering what all this has to do with the Netherlands, and the answer is: nothing. You might have guessed it already but, originally, the Dutch angle was actually called the Deutsch angle. Over time, as the technique became more popular with international filmmakers such as Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock, "Deutsch" became "Dutch" and the Dutch angle became the accepted name.
Examples of the Dutch angle shot in modern cinema
When we say that you can see examples of the Dutch angle shot all over the place now, we really mean it! You can find examples and variations of the Dutch angle across pretty much all cinematic genres - from thriller to comedy. Some directors in particular are known for using the Dutch angle to great effect, while some films are known for being a little less successful.
Here’s a list of just a few famous contemporary films that have featured the Dutch angle:
- Thor (Kevin Feige, 2011)
- Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
- Snatch (Guy Ritchie, 2000)
- Inglorious Bastards (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
- Batman (Leslie H. Martinson, 1966)
- Corpse Bride (Tim Burton, 2005)
Learn more about the camera tilt
If you want to know more about this famous film technique, check out the video below on why movies tilt the camera:
Video: YouTube / Vox
So the next time you decide to sit back with friends or family - whether it's at your local cinema or curled up on the sofa at home with Netflix - keep an eye peeled for any examples of the Dutch angle!
Image credit: Zebra Audiovisual / Shutterstock.com