Explaining and Undoing the Male Gaze in Cinema

A perspective that's overstayed its welcome.

A perspective that’s overstayed its welcome.

It’s no secret that the majority gaze in film is masculine. Men dominate the directing field and always have, and as a result cinema has been decidedly male-oriented for most of its existence. The easiest way to prove this is by an examination of how men and women direct their gazes in film: men tend to look at women, and women tend to look not at men, but at men looking at them. This is conveyed, in part, with an imbalance of full shots directed towards women so that the totality of their physical form can be seen, and close-ups of men’s faces, particularly their eyes.

These trends are mercifully fading as more women are being given the well-deserved opportunity to direct more mainstream and bigger-budgeted movies for major studies – anyone see Wonder Woman this weekend? Oh, right. Everyone did – but there’s still a very long way to go to undo the ramifications of a century-plus of male-oriented filmmaking.

To explain the problem and therefore the roots of its solution, take the following video from Marina Perez Trigueros that uses text from revered English art critic John Berger – who passed earlier this year at the age of 90 – paired with imagery from Henri George-Clouzot’s L’Enfer, a film that has been a point of reference for directors like David Lynch, Wes Anderson, Dario Argento, and Nicolas Winding Refn.

A few minutes with this and you’ll never look at cinema the same way again.

 

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist