Why Shoot “The Blue Room” Using Academy Ratio?


These are the days of 60” widescreen televisions, 3D, and digital, so when a film is produced using older techniques, whether it’s black and white coloring or box framing, the filmmaker’s motivation is automatically called into question.

The Blue Room (2014) is shot in Academy Ratio (1.37:1), which is the aspect ratio the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences established as the standard way back in 1932. After the 1950s its popularity waned, and its use in modern cinema is almost zero. The format is small and boxy, technically unsuitable for modern televisions or projections, which is why it’s rarely seen in today’s productions aside from style-honoring films like The Artist (2011) that are intended to look like something from long ago.

For The Blue Room, the director intentionally employed the format for its immediate feeling of claustrophobia, and for its ability to focus the viewer’s attention on small details in the frame. When there’s less to see, there’s less to get distracted by, and the cinematography can easily direct the viewer’s attention to a specific point. Audiences today are so used to wide, expansive shots that Academy ratio is more effective than ever in establishing a feeling of confinement.

The Blue Room is a tale about a man recalling an affair that had a profoundly negative impact on his life. He’s a small man - physically smaller than the woman with whom he’s having illicit relations, and emotionally small as a shuttered and confused individual. He attempts to balance anger and guilt directed at his family, his lover, and himself, all while being interrogated about a crime. As the film goes on, he grows smaller as a man more wrought in the consequences of his lust, and the aspect ratio helps symbolically capture that internal detention.

The film may not have held the same poignancy and emotional weight with less astute attention to the inner quandaries of its characters, elements exemplified by the format.

“...superb camerawork from DP Christophe Beaucarne, whose decision to shoot in the Academy format only serves to intensify the action.” - Hollywood Reporter

“Shot in Academy Ratio, “The Blue Room” mimes Julien’s predicament by imprisoning him in small square frames long before the public trial has commenced. He stares off screen at an answer that won’t come, combing his myriad flashbacks for the answer as if turning a glass Rubix cube.” -

“The Blue Room,” shot in the boxy Academy ratio, is a chamber drama in many ways, including literal ones.” - Indiewire