This work has three principle aims; to delineate a term in the canon of stereoscopic (3D) film studies which Spöhrer points out1 is a fledgling field and warrants investigation, secondly to link this term to the longstanding cinematic device of one point perspective, and finally to create an impression of how the director of Long Day’s Journey Into Night reveals an obsessive protagonist and how this ultimately links to the use of 3D.
The term is the Obsessive Perspective, which can be understood as Mulvey’s notion of the ‘gaze’2 and its potency when combined with an obsessed protagonist and one point perspective. Although this is not an essay on the male gaze, the notion of the male gaze is a fascinating pretext for this video essay which associates the way (often male) directors deploy one point perspective to channel an (often male) character’s psychological fixation on a singular goal into the audience’s viewpoint. I link this to the use of 3D in Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
In Long Day’s Journey Into Night the philosophy of the sun, Buddhism, meshes with the genre of the night, film noir. It is intensely stylish and a beautiful modern restaging of the classical Hollywood noir, full of all the anxiety, eroticism, existential terror and rain-soaked nocturnal imagery that identifies the genre, applied to a new country, a new language and a new culture. But what makes Long Day exceptional is two things. A poetic wisdom to the way these elements combine to affect the audience. And a 59-minute shot stereo converted in post production to alluring 3D.
3D, which also creates artificial depth in a 2D medium as does perspective, creates the feeling of almost being able to touch the object in the frame3. I introduce this train of thought in the essay by invoking Jeong’s claim that 3D long takes are ‘not just a complete representation of reality, but a complete presentation of our being embedded in a represented reality’4. This chimes with the director’s intentions for Long Day’s Journey Into Night, being ‘the conjuration of fake three dimensional memories’5. The film clearly illustrates a psychological journey, full of intentional lapses in unities of space and time, that prevent any assumption we are watching a physical reality. For in this filmmaking intention, there is grounds to suggest that 3D in Long Day’s Journey Into Night activates a closer sense of viewing the perceived reality we live in than a by-standing Bazinian camera. A represented reality, as opposed to mere reality, is a subjective one, one which must by nature have a perspective, which in this case relates everything in the frame back to Wan Qiwen. Hence every texture and element of mise-en-scene which is heightened by 3D, an effect which mesmerised a mass audience in Avatar, is channelled back to that focal point of Wan Qiwen, at the centre of a psychological one point perspective even when the frame is not set up as a one point perspective with her in it.
Kogonada made clear the prevalence of one point perspective in the cinema of Stanley Kubrick, by cutting together over a hundred frames from his filmography6. But there is more than a filmmaking style to the way one point perspective has been used throughout cinematic history. This video essay draws upon the proclivity to use one point perspective in those moments where characters or their mental states are represented in a vortex. Spinning spirals, illusions and stereoscopic effects using vortexes that incur stereolepsis – seeing in 3D – were eventually omitted from the final cut of the video essay on the one hand because it drew time away from the important explanation of Luo’s psychological state but also because such effects are known to trigger seizures in some viewers. They are useful tools, however, to distort vision and make the same clip appear different afterwards, demonstrating the important point behind 3D’s significance in Long Day’s Journey Into Night that should you change the way you look at a thing, what you look at changes too.
This video essay ultimately left me with more questions as to the specific nature of watching a film in 3D. Since autostereograms and optical illusions possess such a capability to reshape the frame as your eyes perceive it7, those curious about 3D should look into its own inherent effects on the film experience. One of the more curious discoveries I made while researching for this video essay, for example, one of the central pieces of information that I find warrants an intrinsic investigation of 3D as a technology, was a neurological discovery made by Liuye Yao, not long after the release of the film, that indicates extended viewing of 3D movies triggers theta wave activity, which only ever appears elsewhere during REM sleep. The suggestion that 3D has a hypnotic nature here gains some credence. It shows there is some psychological utility to the technology beyond merely exciting our senses. And it reinforces this video essay’s presupposition that 3D was the right choice for invoking an obsessive man’s wandering odyssey into a dreamworld.