What is… a Dutch Angle?

A Dutch angle is a shot whereby the camera is tilted in relation to the scene. The shot then appears to be leaning to one side. To get slightly more technical, the usual vertical lines of the shot will be at an angle to the side of the frame. Dutch angles are also referred to as canted angles, oblique angles, German angles or even sometimes Batman angles. A rarely used type of Dutch angle is the Bavarian angle, whereby the shot is tilted a full 90Β° so that horizontals become verticals and vice versa.

Dutch angles got their name from their conception in German expressionist cinema where they were known as ‘Deutsch’ angles – hence why they are still also known as German angles – with ‘Dutch’ being a malformed evolution of this. Dutch angles were allegedly first used in the classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to show a sense of madness, disorientation and unrest, and it’s these kind of states of mind that the technique has come to represent. It is still a widely used technique and gives a slightly ethereal quality that often gives the viewer the feeling something isn’t quite right in some respect. For example, Sam Raimi uses Dutch angles in his Evil Dead trilogy to show when someone has become possessed.

As is often the case when discussing camera techniques and the like, it’s better to see them in action, so here’s a few notable examples…

Die Hard

Die Hard

Les Miserables (2012)

Les Miserables (2012)

Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane


Some films have actually attracted criticism for their use of Dutch angles. Battlefield Earth (shown below) is one such film.

"The director, Roger Christian, has learned from better films that directors sometimes tilt their cameras, but he has not learned why."β€” Roger Ebert referring to Battlefield Earth

“The director, Roger Christian, has learned from better films that directors sometimes tilt their cameras, but he has not learned why.”
β€” Roger Ebert referring to Battlefield Earth


And here’s why Dutch angles are sometimes referred to as the Batman angle…

Past

Past

Present

Present


These are obviously only a few examples from the huge number out there but hopefully give a clear example of the technique.

Past ‘What is…?’ entries can be found here, so do have a read if you haven’t already.

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35 thoughts on “What is… a Dutch Angle?

  1. Nostra says:

    As a Dutchman I was wondering what these were and interesting to see the translation somehow went wrong…it’s got nothing to do with the Netherlands πŸ˜‰

  2. Tyson Carter says:

    Nice post buddy, always informative! I presumed it was some Amsterdam style prostitute sex move, but you have proved me wrong πŸ˜‰

  3. Mark Walker says:

    Another grey piece of info Chris. I was aware of this technique but not the name or history behind it. Nicely done sir! πŸ™‚

  4. keith7198 says:

    I do believe that Dutch angles can be helpful or distracting. It usually depends on the director’s hands at work. I love its heavy use in the phenomenal “The Third Man”! Great write-up!

  5. ruth says:

    Another awesome and enlightening post, Chris! I’ve seen a lot of examples of this but didn’t know the technical term. I agree with Keith, if handled with care, it could be very memorable, but less experienced directors might actually make it distracting.

  6. Great post! I never knew there was a name for such a term…very interesting! I’ll have to look out for it from now on! πŸ™‚

  7. Popcorn Nights says:

    Fascinating Chris. Thanks very much. I’m quite into photography in my spare time and the same practice exists within street photography, often as a means of suggesting that something strange is going on or something is wrong with the world.

  8. All this time and I was thinking the cameraman must be a hunchback. πŸ˜‰

    jking of course way to drop some knowledge

  9. sati says:

    I think nowadays dutch angles are known as the devices Tom Hopper uses to torture the audience πŸ˜› Even in those screenshots you shared, the subtle ones are awesome but the one from Les Mis – it’s like a camera guy was just kicked in the head by Trinity πŸ˜›

  10. That Battlefield example made me laugh haha πŸ˜€

  11. table9mutant says:

    Interesting! Good post πŸ™‚

  12. ckckred says:

    Great info! I think Dutch angles have to be used well to improve the film. It worked in Citizen Kane and The Third Man but was very distracting in Les Miserables.

  13. Very interesting and informative. I’m a little bit smarter now, so thank you πŸ˜‰

  14. I’ve actually seen The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, yet I didn’t know that’s where Dutch angles actually came from. Also, Thor is another movie loaded with Dutch angles, but I’d say it falls closer to Battlefield Earth on the spectrum rather than Batman (just in terms of the camera, not the quality of the movies themselves).

    • I didn’t know that’s where it came from either, I just thought it was something that had developed over time. Thor is littered with Dutch angles, I could well have slung a couple of those in. It is a little overdone in that to be honest.

  15. vinnieh says:

    Excellent and very interesting explanation.

  16. Squasher88 says:

    Nice post, very informative. Thanks for that.

  17. Niejan says:

    Helpful article. Thanks!

  18. Relax says:

    I can call it Doyle angle, a style used by Christopher Doyle.

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