A Festival of Flat Angles; The Direction of the 1956 version of Hunchback

Esmeralda (Gina Lollobrigida) and Quasimodo (Anthony Quinn), 1956 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture

Esmeralda (Gina Lollobrigida) and Quasimodo (Anthony Quinn), 1956 Hunchback of Notre Dame

Let’s talk about the direction of the 1956 version of Hunchback of Notre Dame and its complete lack of style. So what do I mean when I say lack of style. I mean the angle of the framing or the camera angles. Almost every single shot in this film has exactly the same angle:  straight-on or flat angles. Straight-on  angles have their place in cinema but when nearly the entire film in made up of them it get  very, very,  very dull. Every now and then they do a shot-reverse-shot (two people talking) but even that is considered boring.  This movie doesn’t hide the fact it was shot in the most efficient way possible. It was most likely shot this way because they shot it twice, a French version and an English version. This dual version prove detriment to the final product as it’s an 1 hour 49 minutes of straight-on angles with an occasion pan or zoom. It feel like they recorded a play and not a movie.

Esmeralda (Gina Lollobrigida) with Phoebus (Jean Danet), 1956 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Esmeralda (Gina Lollobrigida) with Phoebus (Jean Danet), 1956 Hunchback of Notre Dame

The flat-angle also making the blocking and composition insanely dull as well. Also the editing rarely cuts away from the medium long shots.  So scene play out  with people talking and the camera sometimes panning to follow. Rarely does it cut to a close up or reaction shot.

Robert Hirsch as Gringoire & Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda, 1956 Hunchback of Notre dame picture image

Robert Hirsch as Gringoire & Gina Lollobrigida as Esmeralda, 1956 Hunchback of Notre dame

But for the sake of argument let’s look at the big scene of Hunchback, Quasimodo saving Esmeralda.

This scene is usual big and epic is rather small and dull. But what really gets me is after Djali walks into the cathedral there is a dissolve which means a passage of time. This makes the big ‘sanctuary shot” feel like it was thrown in. I compare this to Disney

and its dullness is amplified. One can argue that the 1956 scene plays out like the book but there is no excuse for the all flat which steals the life away from any scene. However the film isn’t devoid of inserting camera work they just seem to be allocate to Esmeralda’s dance. The Angles again are mostly flat but the editing has a degree variety.  I think the most interesting single shot in the movie is Frollo staring at Esmeralda as she being reflective in the window next to him.

Frollo (Alain Cuny) stares while Esmeralda (Gina Lollobrigida) dances, 1956 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Frollo (Alain Cuny) stares while Esmeralda (Gina Lollobrigida) dances, 1956 Hunchback of Notre Dame

All in all this film is made boring in it execution.  The framing, the editing, the composition of the shot are all so mind-numbingly dull.

Interior Set, 1956 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Flat Angle, 1956 Hunchback of Notre Dame

Next 1956 post- an editing mistake.

Esmeralda (Gina Lollobrigida), 1956 Hunchback of Notre Dame picture image

Esmeralda (Gina Lollobrigida), 1956 Hunchback of Notre Dame

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2 comments on “A Festival of Flat Angles; The Direction of the 1956 version of Hunchback

  1. Bell ringer of notre dame on said:

    What’s even worse than the direction is the music of the movie or lack thereof. What music there is is just awful

  2. Bell-Ringer of Notre Dame on said:

    It may be littered with flat angles, but it was filmed in CINEMASCOPE and in TECHICOLOR whopee! (sarcasm)

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