Cinematic which foreshadows a sense of panic and alarm.

Cinematic
techniques are epitomized in the fight scene in Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016), to convey feelings of distress.
The fight scene shows the school bully, Terrel, forcing Kevin to hit Chiron
until he falls to the floor being physically unable to fight back. This scene
occurs near the end of Part II: Chiron, establishing
the breakdown of Kevin and Chiron’s friendship, but also giving Chiron a base
to build himself back in the future. Each shot utilizes cinematic techniques to
their full potential, to allow the viewer to gain a full insight into story
world, and to express and evoke strong emotions on upsetting subjects. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016) utilizes
cinematography by focusing on camera movements and angles to create the feeling
of dominance and tension.

Camera movements
are essential to creating the feeling of tension. The most important and
effective camera movement is Shot #1, which not only establishes the
temperament of the scene, but captivates the viewer instantly. The camera pans
anticlockwise, in a continuous circular motion. As it spins, the pan speeds up which
causes tension to increasingly build. The spinning effect also disorients the
viewer; creating a light-headed, dazed sensation. The dizzy action creates an
atmosphere of suspense as the viewer is confused and unsure, which foreshadows
a sense of panic and alarm. The viewer is captivated as the tension that has been
built through the spinning camera draws attention to the uncertainty of the
next move being made by the character Terrel. The speed of the rotating camera
adds to the violence, as its high rate of motion emits an aggressive concept
which further makes the viewer feel threatened. The circling camera effect also
gives the impression of prey being targeted. Victimization is emphasized as the
camera movement focusing just on the authoritarian figure creates the effect of
a hunter encircling and dominating its victim. The viewer can deduce that the
power Terrel has, reinforced by the camera’s focus on him, will ultimately lead
to an unjust action. In addition to this, as the camera breaks the 180 ° rule, so it not only obscures the viewing of the scene, but makes the
viewer the main focal point of the action. Therefore, this camera movement captivates
the viewer to a larger degree as they can relate to vulnerability of Chiron by
being physically placed in the middle of the scene’s commotion. Shot #1 in the
scene is the most gripping as the uniqueness of the camera movement and the
length of the shot builds up the most tension and positions the viewer in the
center of the drama.

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Tension and dominance is also established through the tilting camera
movements. The camera tilts follow the movement of the bodies, which connects
the viewer further as the camera lens is personified to react as the viewer. As
most of the tilts follow body motions, instead of tilting to reveal something,
it further accentuates the actions of the characters. For example, Shots #2 and
#4 tilts upwards to show Chiron lifting his head back and standing up to his
full height. The tilt asserts Chiron’s dominance in a time of vulnerability.
Although these tilts are small, they are precise, and therefore establish a
more natural and relatable feeling of dominance. These small tilts also help to
stay within the boundaries of Chiron’s character. As he is a shy and anxious
boy, the small tilts allow authority to be portrayed but without overstepping
the boundaries of his persona. Another important camera tilt is Shot #11, where
this time the camera moves to reveal new information. As the camera tilts
upwards, it exposes the face of Kevin and his emotion. The tilt is slow and
steady, to establish the power that Kevin has. It also creates an escalation of
tension as the slow reveal is more unsettling; especially when it uncovers an
unlikeable personality trait in Kevin. The camera tilts help the viewer to feel
what the character is experiencing, adding another personal level to the scene.

Throughout the
whole of the scene, the camera shots have a shaky movement. The destabilized
motion creates a jeering effect, building up anticipation. By using a handheld
camera to film some of the shots, it adds to the energy and unpredictability of
the action. The erratic effect that derives from this also creates suspense and
agitation for the viewer. For example, Shots #2, #4 and #8 are unstable, adding
to the tension being created by the ambiguity of what will happen to Chiron.
Personal feelings are being exhibited by the camera again, as this shakiness
also exhibits the adrenaline and panicked feeling that Chiron is experiencing.
The jittery camera movements act as Chiron’s heart beating fast or his
breathing becoming quicker in fear of the unpredictability of the attacker. The
viewer therefore gains a deeper insight into the feelings Chiron. Another
cinematic technique used through the movement of the camera is following the
characters’ actions, but slacking slightly behind the pace of the motion. For
example, in Shot #5, the camera follows the swaying body movement of Kevin, but
lags somewhat behind. The out-of-sync wavering again makes the viewer feel
apprehensive, as the lack of stability is unnerving. Again, it plays upon the
feeling of victimization as the lack of symmetry and concurrence between the
movements is aesthetically unpleasing to the viewer. These smaller camera
movements and techniques help the viewer to experience the tension and
uneasiness of the scene.

High and low
shots are used to establish the juxtaposition between dominance and weakness.
The shot angles are personified as the two main protagonists, displaying more
about their personalities to the viewer. The low shots are focused on the
character Kevin, who is acting violently towards Chiron. Alternately, the high
shots center on Chiron, who is being victimized. In the sequence of
shot-reverse-shots showing the confrontation between Kevin and Chiron, the shot
angles are essential to convey the message of tension. For example, the
sequence of Shots #10, #11, and #12, switches between the shot angles in the
middle of the protagonists’ fist fight. The varying shot angles helps to
establish who is winning the fight, whilst also directing the viewer’s sympathy
to certain characters. Shot #11’s low angle shows that Kevin is the superior
figure and warns the viewer of his threatening nature. Then Shots #10 and #12
shows Chiron in a vulnerable position, as the high angle looks down on him,
which not only shows Kevin’s point-of-view but also forces the viewer to also
tower over him. A further important high angle is used in Shot #17, when Terrel
and his friends are attacking Chiron. As the camera is below their feet, when
the kick and stomp down on Chiron, an alarming and menacing emotion is emitted.
The high angle allows the viewer to understand the physical pain of Chiron, as
the ominous presence of the feet stepping down into the camera creates a
frightening shot. Again, the high angle allows the viewer to experience
Chiron’s point-of-view by being in the middle of the action, as he is. The high
and low angles are essential to this scene as it adds to the spontaneity of the
fight, whilst also establishing the power of certain characters.

The use of
focusing on the subjects, whilst the background is blurry, adds to the state of
panic which makes the scene more gripping. Changing the depth of field forces
the viewer’s attention to be directed to a specific section of the shot, which
can create tension especially when the shot is distressing to watch. Shot #14 disorients
the viewer as when Chiron approaches the camera closer, the shot becomes an
extreme close up, however he in turn becomes out of focus. The blurry face
gives us an insight to Chiron’s muddled thoughts. The blurriness shows his own
confusion as his logical thought process is overpowered by raw emotions of fear
and anger. The viewer is therefore nervous at the uncertainty shown through the
lack of focus both visually and conceptually. Similarly, Shot #20 is mainly
blurry throughout, which conveys the panic experienced by Terrel and his
friends. The fuzzy shot depicts the overall mania that is occurring, but also
alludes to the actual vision of Chiron. As Chiron has just been beaten, his
vision is physically impaired; but it also represents his mindset being clouded
with anger and revenge. Shots with shallow depths of fields are also utilized
to explore the connection between Chiron and Kevin. Despite all the background
movement, zoning in on Chiron and Kevin in each shot eliminates all the outside
interference and gives the opportunity for the viewer to explore the
characters’ relationship.

Another cinematic
technique that is used is shot-reverse-shots, which are used to highlight the
connection between the two protagonists, and the tension that is between them.
Switching between the two characters in rapid succession builds tension and
creates a climax. The shot-reverse-shots depict emotions as the movement acts
as an unspoken dialogue. As Chiron and Kevin have a much deeper bond than the
other characters know about, the focus on them and their interaction in each
scene helps develop their relationship. From Shot #4 to Shot #12, the
fluctuating between the characters draws the viewers’ attention to their
feelings and reactions. Each shot shows the character responding to the
previous shot’s action, which reveals something new about their personality
each time. Although Kevin is acting tough and violent, the shot-reverse-shots
show him pleading with his eyes for Chiron to forgive him for his actions. This
technique shows the growing tension between them, and how the scene is focused
solely on their reactions.

            Overall,
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016) uses
diverse and interesting camera movements and angles to explore the struggles of
conveying a true and emotional scene of violence. Focusing on simple camera
movements adds to the shots in a complex way, encouraging the viewer to notice
the details and read between the lines to the emotions being portrayed. The
build up of tension in this scene is created through structured pacing of
shots, focusing on close ups to showcase the characters’ thoughts and emotions.
The success of the fight scene is using cinematic techniques to heighten
extremes and the feelings that go with it, to portray tension and dominance
between the characters.