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Term: Staging Positions

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The language of film recognizes five main body positions that actors (respectively characters) can be placed and photographed in. Each of these basic positions, in which the actor faces the viewer in a different way, also have different psychological connotations.

  1. Full front: The character directly faces the camera front. This position represents the greatest intimacy as far as the relation between the camera (resp. the viewer) and the actor is concerned. By looking directly at the viewers, the actor puts them in a role of complicity. The character looking directly into the camera (resp. the viewer’s eyes), can significantly disturb the illusion that the screen’s frame is a window to a separated reality (see also 90-degree shot).
  2. Quarter turn: The body is a quarter-turn from the audience. This is the favoured position of most filmmakers as it offers a high degree of intimacy on the one hand, and a lower degree of emotional involvement than the full front position on the other.
  3. Profile: The actor is shown in profile looking out of the frame to the left or right (into the offscreen space). In the case of two actors, they may be facing each other or have their backs turned to each other (the face-to-face variation is often used in establishing shots of dialogue and duel scenes). However, in this position, the characters generally seem to be unaware that they are being observed by the camera (resp. the viewer). Seemingly, they are more concerned with each other or with their own diegetic world.
  4. Three-quarter turn: A position in which the actor turns away from the viewers with the result that they can only see one quarter of the actor’s face. This position is more anonymous than the profile view. Partially turning away from the camera (resp. the viewer) in this way can indicate a character’s unfriendly or antisocial feelings. Furthermore, by giving them “the cold shoulder”, the character ostensibly rejects the interest of the viewers.
  5. Full back: The actor turns his/her whole back to the camera (resp. the viewer). This is the most anonymous of all body positions and is often used to signalize a sense of alienation from the world. In this position, the viewers have no clues from facial expressions at all and can only guess as to what is taking place internally. This staging position often conveys a sense of mystery, concealment or even vulnerability (since the character is not aware of what is happening behind his/her back).
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