clock menu more-arrow no yes

Why movies tilt the camera like this

The expressionist origins of the “Dutch angle.”

The Dutch angle (aka Dutch tilt, canted angle, or oblique angle) is a filmmaking technique that involves setting the camera at an angle and tilting the entire scene. You see it everywhere, from blockbuster movies to soap commercials. It’s used to emphasize when something is a little off, or just to make a shot look more interesting.

The thing is… it’s not actually Dutch. And it didn’t start with filmmakers. It was pioneered by German directors during World War I, when outside films were blocked from being shown in Germany. While Hollywood was serving up largely glamorous, rollicking films, the German film industry joined the expressionist movement in art and literature, which was focused on processing the chaos of world war. Its themes touched on betrayal, suicide, psychosis, and terror. And expressionist films conveyed that darkness not just through their plotlines, but through their set designs, costumes — and unusual camera shots.

You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.