The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Cinematography)

After watching “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, I felt that it was a tremendous movie that used great cinematography techniques to inspire emotion into viewer. Whether it be that I haven’t seen that many black and white, or that I expected less during that time period in US History. I was pleasantly surprised at the film’s ability to evoke emotions from its camera work.

Such an example being at the end of the movie where James Stewart’s character “Sheppard” shoots Liberty Valance at this angle to the viewer.

Sheppard Shoots Liberty Valance_Cinematography

So from that point on, the viewer thinks Sheppard shot Liberty Valance. But in reality, John Wayne’s “Doniphon” was actually the one that shot at a different camera angle not shown until the very end when he admits killing Liberty Valance to Sheppard.

Donovan Shoots Liberty Valance_Cinematography

That was a great work of cinematography that actually is important to the story. If you saw the first camera view, you think Sheppard shot him, but if you see the second camera view, you think both might have shot Liberty Valance. 

At the end of the movie, everyone thinks that Sheppard shot Liberty Valance and it helps him gain popularity to be a Senator. Meanwhile, Doniphon keeps it secret that he was actually the shooter and doesn’t get the recognition from it.

Here are my impressions from the film of how they covered the different aspects of visual design.

  • Selection= perfect camera angles to capture what was going on in the film
  • Contrast= Focus on things closer to viewer, and farther objects are more blurry.
  • Perspective= many views of different areas in the film, like the Diner that Sheppard worked part-time
  • Depth= there are clear views of the desert West, far in the background
  • Balance= Smooth camera transitions, and camera angles would move at just the right time
  • Moment= Sheppard vs Doniphon shooting Liberty Valance changes the whole emotion of the story at the very end of the film
  • Lighting= Lighting that relevant to real life, Sheppard coming from out of the shadows to shoot Liberty Valance is an example
  • Foreground/Background= plenty of shots of the town area, the western desert behind Doniphon’s house, details on main characters

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