An existential examination of mise en scene as love story.
Every now and again I come across a video essay that’s a little different, either in source selection, approach, or both. The following video entitled “Spider-Man 2: How to Use the Two-Shot” by Jop Leuven for Love of Film is the latter such sort of video, one that takes an unassuming film like Sam Raimi’s 2004 sequel – not a bad film per se but never one that comes up for intense critical evaluation – and approaches it from an unexpected vantage: how the director uses mise en scene, specifically the shot-reverse-shot combo, to deepen the main plotline (Peter’s struggle with being Spider-Man) and the main subplot (the relationship between Peter and Mary Jane).
I’m going to let Leuven provide the details because a significant chunk of this video’s enjoyability – and there’s a lot to enjoy here – comes from his existential examination and deadpan delivery, but suffice it to say, the basic theory is that Spider-Man 2 isn’t just a love story between Peter and Mary Jane, it’s a love triangle between Peter, Mary Jane, and Spider-Man, the superhero being the obstacle between the people trying to get together. Raimi uses and removes the shot-reverse-shot based on where each character is in their emotional decision-making, keeping them in separate frames when they’re emotionally apart, and uniting them in frame in moments when they seem as though they might close this distance.
I love the hell out of this video, so much so I watched it twice in a row, something I never, ever do. There’s certainly a tongue-in-cheek humor to Leuven’s approach, but that doesn’t take away from the thoughtful, insightful analysis he’s providing; if anything it bolsters it and ensures you’ll keep thinking about it long after the lesson has ended. Stop what you’re doing and spend four minutes below, I promise it’s worth your time.