In King Hu’s A Touch of Zen (Part I) I was really struck by his full utilization of the scene’s layout. In most shots, there would be objects in the foreground, middle ground, and background which the characters would interact with. Oftentimes characters would cross the foreground into the background or weave through obstructions in the foreground to only be seen briefly in the background. I found this technique allowed the audience to fully experience the beautiful setting that King Hu created.

One main example of the space being utilized in this way was the scene in the beginning when Ku followed Ouyang Nin from a distance. Ouyang Nin would always be in the background, while Ku would enter from the foreground to watch from a distance before chasing after the stranger, and between them would be the stalls.

Another example would be whenever the characters were in the courtyard of the “haunted” fort. The tall grass would often break the view between the audience and the characters, especially during fight scenes.

I think my favorite example was with Ku and his mother when they are seen through the window, and unfortunately I can’t remember exactly if they were leaving or entering their house, but I thought the transition of the characters directly in view of the audience to silhouettes behind screen windows was a great way to show how even the space on the other side of the wall is a part of the scene.


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