‘How do camera angles privilege some characters over others?’
(In other words how does the use of the camera show that some characters have status and some are important to the story; also how does the camera show us which character/s viewpoint is going to be the one the story will be told from?)
For example we realise immediately that Merlin himself will be the central character from the opening shot which is a tracking long shot which enables us to see Merlin approaching from the other side of a small hill. The camera follows him as he walks through a variety of landscapes towards his ultimate destination, Camelot. As he goes we get a variety of camera angles from long shots, through pans and wides to set his journey in a context; we see what he sees through the use of over the shoulder shots as he looks around at the people and happenings in the market square of Camelot. Master shots of the castle and the market place give us a context for the story we are about to be told. Close ups of Merlin’s face show his excitement, curiosity and amazement at the scenes he witnesses while seeing him from a high angle emphasises his vulnerability in these unfamiliar surroundings.
The shot reverse shot as the camera focuses first on the King, Uther, on his balcony pronouncing the sentence of death on the man accused of sorcery, and then on Merlin’s horrified face and then back again, immediately indicates the differences between these two in their stations in life and in their beliefs and also make us aware of the potential for conflict between them.
Uther himself is seen in a low angle shot high on a balcony above the crowd gathered for the execution; although not alone the two men standing with him are perceived as inferiors because they are lower than the king. Merlin by contrast is just one among many seen in a high angle shot in the crowded market place yet the camera keeps coming back to his face and his reactions.
The final character introduced in this opening section is Morgana. She, like the king, is seen from a low angle shot almost hidden in the opening of a window in the castle. The close up on her look of disgust at the beheading and her retreat into the shadows immediately informs us that here is a character who may be an ally of Merlin’s while making it obvious that she does not necessarily agree with the king’s actions despite clearly being a member of his household.