How the Coen Brothers Use a Wide Lens to Create Humor and Empathy for Their Characters

In the latest episode of his insightful cinematic series Every Frame a Painting, filmmaker Tony Zhou takes a look at how the Coen brothers employ a technique called “Shot/Reverse Shot” using a wide lens that puts the audience right into the situation with the characters and offering a deeper sense of who the character is, even at their very worst moments.

One of the first things you notice about the Coens is that they like to film dialogue from inside the space of the conversation and that means the camera is usually in between the two characters so that they each get separate shots. …it’s two feelings, kind of uncomfortable kinda funny and it fits because the Coens like to isolate individuals, trapping them in situations that they really have no control over and because the lens is right here, we’re trapped with them. …On one level the Coens want you to laugh at these people, after all they use the wide lens to exaggerate the face and a time the scene for humor. On another level the Coens want you to empathize with these characters a frame wide enough so you can see the environment and they put the lens right next to people at their lowest point.