A duel of chess: Cinematography vs. The Human Mind

by Elitsa Petrova

Ever since the beginning of time, art has been the most expressive human mechanism to treasure important events and permanently preserve profound emotions. It serves not only as a keeper of memories, but also as an active mean of identification and self-exploration. 

The art of cinematography offers a combination of visual and speech characteristics of different situations, behaviors and personages, which allows the audience to either indulge in an unknown, extraordinary world or to relive familiar experiences and emotions and get a better understanding of them. Through different movie characters, the viewers are able to incorporate themselves in storylines, which could be likely to happen or be completely unimaginative in their current lifestyle. To build a movie character is to create a brand new psychological persona, through which the filmmakers address societal issues or express their own views on the world. 

Have you ever watched a movie and thought “I need to make a change in my life”? Or has the storyline of a film ever followed you around for days like a bizarre cloud of confusion and fascination? These questions do not pop up by coincidence. On the contrary, they are the result of the filmmakers’ hard work to generate new thoughts in the audience and even provoke changes in the mindset of an individual. Psychology is the tool which unveils the mystery of unconsciously appearing ideas inside the human mind. Some of the most popular tools used to capture the audience include playing with lightning, sound techniques, and equipment. Color psychology  is strategically used to evoke specific emotional responses from the audience (red is associated with anger and passion, pink – with love and innocence, green – healing and youth, etc. ). Popular examples are the following: “The Matrix”, dominated by green tones to symbolize a futuristic atmosphere, “Schindler’s List” , where the majority of the movie is in black (prevalence of evil) and white (emptiness and sterility) and only the girl with the red coat stands out dramatically to highlight its suffering. Sound effects play an even more significant role at preparing the viewer for the story they will be engaged in – could be dainty and ominous, cheerful and exciting. Music can help create many different emotions and atmospheres throughout the movie – good or bad, fast or slow. 

All of the above mentioned tricks are just little fragments that contribute to the creation of a captivating film, but what is it that actually makes it interesting? The answer to this question lies in the connection between movie structure and brain chemistry. The progressive shortening of movie lengths due to the increase of human IQ over time allows us to process more information in a shorter time period. Fractality  (patterns in scenes that are displayed numerous times) has been found in many popular movies released between 1915 and 2015 because it increases the sense of rhythm in a movie to synchronize with the viewers’ attention. This phenomenon is observed in the infamous “Back to the future”, where the resulting waveform of the shot durations showed a repetitive fractal-like pattern. At the end of the day, Oscar winning movies are chosen mainly depending on their scenarios and the actors who play in them, but these optical illusions are what contributes to the visual captivation of the audience.

Cinematography is a game of chess between the movie creators and the audience. The main task of filmmakers is to be amateur psychologists who experiment with different methods in order to attract the attention of the watchers and transmit an emotional trace in their souls through visual and auditory senses. The winner captures the audience’s most prized possession – their minds, which serve as the opponents’ kings in this artistic duel of chess.


Arjundeep Ranjit Singh Sandhu, (Jul 1, 2023).Film Psychology. https://medium.com/@thearjundeepsinghsandhu.07/film-psychology-ca2f3bc3c326

Jon Fusco Jason Hellerman, (Aug 30, 2023). The Psychology of Color in Film.


Hamza Jamal. The psychology of filmmaking.


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