This week with #VoTogs52 we are exploring the Dutch Angle. Also known as the Dutch Tilt, the Canted Angle, Oblique Angle, German Angle, Deutsche Angle, Slanted Angle or the Batman Angle. The 1919 German movie The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari first used the “Deutsche” angle to visually emphasize themes of madness, illustrating the off-centred, off-balance nature and general social destruction taking place in the Weimar Republic set up by Germany after World War I. (ref: Wikipedia). The Dutch term is thought to been a mistranslation of Deustch, as the technique originated from Germany and was widely used in German films of the 1930s and 1940s.
What is it? It is a type of shot where the camera angle is deliberately slanted to one side, so that the horizon line of the shot is not parallel with the bottom of the frame. It is important to note the distinction between deliberately slanting the camera, as opposed to screwing up a shot where the horizon is not level. The intent of the slant is for dramatic effect, traditionally to portray unease, disorientation, frantic or desperate action, intoxication, madness, etc. It can be particularly effective when combined with black and white. Conversely when you employ it with a colourful scene, the result can be whimsical and lighthearted.
By nature, people naturally tend to find an even horizon whenever possible. Angles can be used to put viewers off balance by emphasizing the alienation, madness or disorientation of a character. With clever use of light and frame, a range of emotional responses can be drawn from the viewer. Cynically one can say it is an emotional manipulation of viewers, but I see that as the art of photography at heart.
An slanted angle requires planning to evoke the strongest reaction. It is helpful to shoot the same shot in normal angle as well to observe the contrast and see whether the desired impact is achieved.
As for the Batman Angle reference, it was because it was overused in the 1960s edition of said TV show.