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The Dutch angle, also known as Dutch tilt, canted angle, oblique angle or German angle, is a type of camera shot where the camera is set at an angle on its roll axis so that the shot is composed with vertical lines at an angle to the side of the frame, or so that the horizon line of the shot is not parallel with the bottom of the camera frame.
A Dutch angle is a camera shot in which the camera has been rotated relative to the horizon or vertical lines in the shot. The primary use of such angles is to cause a sense of unease or disorientation for the viewer. Many Dutch angles are static shots, but in a moving Dutch angle shot the camera can pivot, pan or track along the established diagonal axis for the shot.
The 1920 German movie The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari first used the "Deutsche" angle to visually emphasize themes of madness, illustrating the off-centred, off-balance nature and general social destruction taking place in the Weimar Republic set up by Germany after World War I.
The angle was widely used to depict madness, unrest, exoticism, and disorientation in German Expressionism, hence its name Deutsch, meaning German, was often conflated with the etymologically identical word Dutch which gives the corruption of the term now commonly used. Montages of Dutch angles are structured in a way that the tilts are almost always horizontally opposite in each shot, for example, a right-tilted shot will nearly always be followed with a left-tilted shot, and so on.
The 1949 film The Third Man makes extensive use of Dutch angle shots, to emphasize the main character's alienation in a foreign environment. An anecdote of cinema lore alleges that once filming was completed, the crew presented director Carol Reed with a spirit level, to sardonically encourage him to use more traditional shooting angles.
Dutch angles are frequently used by film directors who have a background in the visual arts, such as Tim Burton (in Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood), and Terry Gilliam (in Brazil, The Fisher King, 12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Tideland) to represent madness, disorientation, and/or drug psychosis. In his Evil Dead trilogy, Sam Raimi used Dutch angles to show that a character had become possessed.
The Dutch angle is an overt cinematographical technique that can easily be overused. The science-fiction film Battlefield Earth (2000), in particular, drew sharp criticism for its pervasive use of the Dutch angle. In the words of film critic Roger Ebert, "the director, Roger Christian, has learned from better films that directors sometimes tilt their cameras, but he has not learned why."
Dutch angles are often used in horror video games, particularly those with fixed or static camera angles such as early entries in the Resident Evil and Silent Hill franchises. Similar to their use in movies, these angles are meant to bring about a feeling of uneasiness in the player. They are often combined with poorly lit, cramped environments to also invoke fears of the dark and claustrophobia. Such camera angles have fallen out of use in later years, however, as the horror genre has moved more towards action gameplay with first-person or over-the-shoulder views.
- Christopher J. Bowen, Roy Thompson (2013). Grammar of the Shot. Taylor & Francis. p. 82. ISBN 0240526015. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
- Mamer, Bruce (2008). "Oblique Shot (Dutch Angle)". Film Production Technique: Creating the Accomplished Image. Belmont: Cengage Learning. pp. 9–10. ISBN 978-0-495-41116-1.
- Charles Thomas Samuels, Encountering Directors, 1972 - interview with Carol Reed, excerpt at wellesnet.com
- Ebert, Roger (2000-05-12). "Battlefield Earth". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2006-07-29.