How ‘The Handmaid's Tale’ Uses Shallow Focus for Storytelling

Shallow focus was the go-to for us all when we first got our DSLRs that could shoot video. It looked so beautiful, and to a certain degree, it even looked professional. For a while. It was overused, and at some point, if your video consisted of only shallow focus, it was the determining factor to show whether you were a pro DSLR filmmaker or an amateur. But, it certainly has it's place, and the Nerdwriter shares how and why “The Handmaid's Tale” used it in this video. 

“The Handmaid's Tale” is a dystopian series about the future of humanity where women have lost all their rights and only a few are able to give birth. These woman are basically captured and sold off to the wealthy for the their families to procreate and maintain the "good gene" bloodlines. 

Shallow focus is used to capture the main character's point of view. It's a method used to create an emotional bond with that person. It creates an impression of that person for us to identify with. Also, it's used to join worlds but also to remove them from each other. There are flashback scenes where they show what it was like before the laws changed. It also uses shallow focus, and the technique joins the dots. For me, another way it's used is to hide certain information. Women are not allowed to read, so their daily lives are without depth. The shallow focus complements that.

It's always great to ask why you're shooting a certain way or with a certain aperture. What are you trying to show or hide, and why?

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1 Comment

Jonathan Krier's picture

Great video/article! I'm guilty of using it as a crutch, i.e "that's a shit background, we'll just blur it out".