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  • Breaking the fourth wall is one of the most unique thematic devices at the disposal of

  • a filmmaker. Most cinematic techniques pull us into a story and make us forget were

  • watching a film, but breaking the fourth wall does the opposite. It reminds us were actually

  • an audience member watching what’s happening on screen.

  • The technique can contribute to

  • the visual storytelling of a film in many different ways depending on how it’s presented.

  • To really understand the power of breaking the fourth wall, we have to look at its inception

  • in theatrical performance.

  • A formal definition for breaking the fourth

  • wall would be a dramatic technique in a work of fiction where characters display an awareness

  • that they are in such a work. The technique goes as far back as Ancient Greece and continued

  • through Shakespeare’s time and well into postmodern theater, especially musicals. The

  • term first arose after the use of Box Sets became popular in the 1800’s when sets were

  • constructed with three walls, the fourth wall being the imaginary wall between the audience

  • and the performers on stage. So whenever a character acknowledged the audience’s presence,

  • the fourth wall was broken.

  • The technique has been used since the silent

  • era, and Charlie Chaplin played around extensively with fourth wall breaks in his films. With

  • the introduction of sound and the popularity of the musical genre, fourth wall breaks became

  • more common to contribute to the spectacle of film, and over the next 70 years, fourth

  • wall breaks have made their way into a variety of film genres with a variety of thematic effects.

  • The most popular use of this technique is for comedy

  • and the comedy stands out by creating some of the most memorable punch lines in cinematic history.

  • There’s something really surprising and hilarious about reminding us

  • that were in the middle of watching a film. No matter how many times I watch a movie break

  • the fourth wall, the joke can still catch me by surprise. The joke has to step out of

  • the film to deliver the punch line, and there’s really no other type of joke like it. Every

  • other joke is enclosed within the imaginary world of the art form. Taking that step out

  • of a movie is what makes a good fourth wall joke so satisfying and creative.

  • I do want to note that breaking the fourth wall doesn’t automatically make you a comedic genius. The

  • set up and delivery of a fourth wall break has to be at least somewhat surprising or

  • the joke can come off as kind of lazy.

  • You can’t talk about breaking the fourth wall without mentioning Mel Brooks. He broke

  • the fourth wall in the most extreme ways possible. His films go so far as to actually have the

  • main characters watch themselves within the movie

  • While his films are funny because of their

  • ridiculousness, there’s definitely some method to his madness. I like how Blazing

  • Saddles uses fourth wall breaks to poke fun at the Western genre as a whole. It really

  • points out how unrealistic Hollywood films were in their portrayal of life in the west.

  • In reality, western films were nothing but actors in a studio acting in fake towns and

  • eventually getting into a car to drive off the set. Blazing Saddles is a not so subtle

  • reminder that film as an art form has its limitations at portraying reality. Mel Brooks

  • made a statement by pointing out the lack of realism in the Western film. Western films

  • of the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s almost completely ignore racism, xenophobia, and other ugly

  • parts of the west, and Blazing Saddles breaks the fourth wall in an insane way to remind

  • us were watching a dramatized film, not reality.

  • Perhaps what makes breaking the fourth wall the most intriguing is that, depending on

  • its context, the act of acknowledging the audience can actually push us into the film

  • instead of pulling us out. There’s a sort of intimacy to a character speaking directly

  • to us. In Road to Morocco, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope make lighthearted jokes straight

  • to the audience and even remind us that theyre going to end up fine on their adventure

  • We know from the casual and inviting fourth wall breaks that this is a movie that doesn’t

  • take itself too seriously and will provide light, conservative entertainment. Fourth

  • wall breaks can be a way to welcome us into the story, and this variation of the technique

  • is definitely indicative of a more casual movie.

  • A fourth wall break can make us intimate with a character as well as with a story. There’s

  • really no stronger way to show a character’s ulterior motives than by having them look

  • right at us and say them. It’s a great way to show us what’s going on in a character’s

  • head and is comparable to an aside in theater. Frank Underwood addressing us directly is

  • the foundation for so much of the energy in House of Cards. I love the scenes where he

  • says one thing to another character, and then looks at us and reminds us what he’s really after

  • The final great effect of breaking the fourth

  • wall is to unsettle. There’s nothing scarier than feeling safe and removed from the villain

  • in a movie and then having that villain look directly at you.

  • Yikes.

  • Comedy, satire, intimacy, and fear can all be accomplished just from a look to the camera.

  • So don’t forget the great potential a fourth wall break can have, and thanks for wa-

Breaking the fourth wall is one of the most unique thematic devices at the disposal of


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第四の壁を破る方法 (How to Break the Fourth Wall)

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    Lume に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日