(spoilers for the movie)
It starts with something as simple as “left or right” and quickly escalates into who will live or die that day. It changes the entire course or a story for better or worse. It can completely turn everything that you knew to be true upside down in a matter of seconds. It is character choice. The inevitable question every protagonist faces, even in the most subtle of ways, that forces them to choose between two (or more) mortal options.
Tony Zhou returns in his series of “Every Frame a Painting” to bring us the reasoning of camera direction and screen positions. For him, the best way to tell a difficult choice is to utilize your screen directions. As seen in the movie Snowpiercer by Bong Joon-ho, left and right are delegated a sort of moral compass. Right is forward and left is back. By moving the character between both directions, we see his struggle but as he chooses to go one way we know where he stands before even he knows. The movie is practically predictable if you were skillful enough to catch the subtle shifts in character movement.
And it’s a remarkable thing. A very powerful and influential technique to use, if done properly. If a filmmaker is truly apt at composing that “scene of choices” then they know what to do. Because it’s just a simple question: left or right?