A Warning About Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild Camera Work

by on August 14, 2012

in Entertainment

Brusimm opinion SHAKY CAM A friend of mine asked me if I knew anything about Beasts of the Southern Wild.  Specifically, if it was a shaky cam movie or not.  I told him I didn’t know but I offered to look it up for him.  My buddy is a “no spoiler” kind of guy and does what he can to avoid any marketing of a movie, which includes trailers, reviews and what not.  Since I knew of his desire to avoid accidental spoilage, I offered to look it up for him.

Turns out that Beasts of the Southern Wild IS a shaky cam kind of experience.  In fact, every single review I looked at could not avoid mentioning it, and that’s something to ponder, considering how often you might experience a shaky cam movie and sometimes folks make note.  But when everyone says something about it, well, that’s something to be worried about.

I am NOT a shaky cam fan.  I’m not sure who is.  CSI: Miami used to have shaky cam chase scenes and I hated them.  (Turns out, for this show, it would take three guys to create this effect.  A camera man laying down on a large blanket and two (or more) other men carrying him while walking or running.

It sounds like the movie is an incredible movie experience, but be it as it may, here are some random quotes from reviews, regarding the shaky cam work in Beasts:


Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild wowed audiences at Sundance and Cannes, and garnered high praise from a lot of critics. I wish I could share the enthusiasm — and I might come nearer if the film wasn’t a solid eye-strain headache’s worth of shaky-cam.  [mountainx]

starts off quite beautifully, but is unfortunately drowned out by shaky camera visuals. [examiner]

Bathed in sometimes shaky and dark hued photography shot in 16mm film.  [starnewsonline]

But as soon as “Beasts of the Southern Wild” started, I had a sinking feeling. The camera was moving around so much that I might have guessed that it was being held by someone trying to film and shoo away mosquitoes at the same time.  [interbridge]

Take heed, innocent bystanders: If you go to see this shaky-cam movie, wear a neck brace to prevent whiplash [bostonherald]


So if you were pondering trying to catch the movie, but are emotionally allergic to shaky cam art, you’ve been warned!  If any readers/visitors to the site have seen the movie, I’d love if anyone chimed in to the conversation here! [brusimm]

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bruce Simmons August 26, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Man, sorry you didn’t get the word sooner Sneadly! Now all you can do is warn others as best you can! BTW, well spoken and wonderfully sardonic comment. Thanks for dropping by! -Bruce

sneadly August 26, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I wish I’d seen your page before I spent money on this movie. My choices were to leave or to watch it with my eyes closed as I did with Melancholia. This time I left.

My theory is that cinematographers–or whoever decides to shake or not to shake–thinks shakey cam is more real. It’s not. When I look out at the world it seems stable to me. My eyes might dart around looking at things that come into my field of vision, but I control them. My inner ear knows where my eyeballs are going. Shakey cam does not mimic how people see their worlds. If it did, no one could drive.

I truly loathe it. I’m not going to see another movie with pretensions to art without finding out if it’s in shakey cam or not.

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