Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Breaking the Fourth Wall
In a movie, the fourth wall is the camera lens.
The characters never seem to notice that they're being watched. Even the movie viewer is hardly aware of the fourth wall.
When watching the characters in that favorite spy drama, we usually don't consider that the top secret plans are being overheard a bunch of people sitting in theatre seats. Top secret plans that could threaten all of civilization.
And that's because we've bought into the idea that film is (usually) supposed to imitate life. Since most people do not have a camera following them around -- outside of reality television -- that invisible wall is accepted and even taken for granted. It's the norm.
But that doesn't mean that the fourth wall cannot be broken.
Shakespeare did it with the aside. You know, when the character momentarily turns to the audience with a little comment. Usually done for comedic effect.
And so it is with breaking the fourth wall in movies. It's a wink at the camera. And it's tricky to do it right. It can be too intrusive, as if it were breaking the spell of the story.
But sometimes it works very well. Like when Ferris Buehler does it for his Day Off. Woody Allen has also done it. And Mel Brooks. Any others?
[Photo by: B.Mayer]