Shifting POV

Often when filmmakers use the term ‘omniscient point of view’, I believe what they really mean is: ‘shifting point of view’.

Most of the film will still be told from the standpoint of one ore more individual characters, shifting from one scene to the next and from one character to the next.

Even in films like SUNSET BOULEVARD and AMERICAN BEAUTY, where the protagonist is dead and looking back at his life – an almost divine POV – this privilege is not extended for the whole duration of the film. We stay within the limited perspective of the character at the very time of the events, without the power of hindsight.

If the omniscient character is also the story’s narrator, the omniscient POV usually only kicks in on act or sequence breaks. Hardly ever will an omniscient character interrupt a climactic scene or sequence.

In an article about conventions of the horror genre, Phil Parker states a prerequisite of the genre is an omniscient POV. But is the omniscient POV really a primary element of the genre? Ultimate fear can be suggested powerfully from a single POV and does not need an omniscient POV.

“Action is often seen from the antagonist’s POV, secondary characters are often given whole scenes or sequences without the central protagonist, and the audience are often shown things which neither the protagonist nor the antagonist can have seen or known.” (Phil Parker)

When Parker says “seen from the antagonist’s POV”, he is effectively admitting this is not an omniscient POV.

“Secondary characters are often given whole scenes” proves we are talking about a shifting POV rather than an omniscient one.

See also:

Introduction to POV
Omniscient POV
Shifting POV
When to Shift?
POV in Ratatouille’s Deleted Scene
POV as Controller of Tone

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