How Can Cinematic Settings Add Tension?

There are numerous ways that filmmakers can add tension to scenes in their films. Some of the most common techniques are through music and camera angles, with the likes of Alfred Hitchcock being pioneers of this. Tension can also be ramped up through the use of certain settings. By simply filming a scene in a specific location, audiences are made aware that the stakes are higher. Here are three commonly-used settings that serve to up the thrill levels in a film, along with some of the pictures that have used them most effectively.

Casino Tables
Casino table games are so iconic that even people who don’t play gambling games can recognize them. This is why they have been used in films so frequently over the years, as a way to introduce characters or to add another level of thrill to a scene. Filmmakers tend to use games that are well known to as wide an audience as possible. This is why blackjack tends to feature a lot, because the game has been around since the beginning of the 17th century, and it gradually developed from a game called 21. Those who are intrigued to find out more can learn all about it here. The page also recommends some top sites to play at, so you can get a taste for some of that cinematic tension yourself.

There are some casino table scenes that will always be remembered for upping the tension levels by a few notches. One occasion that will live long in the memory of Martin Scorsese fans was the famous poker game, (spoilers) in which Joe Pesci’s character ended up killing the waiter. Table games have also been used in a lot of James Bond films to show the character’s willingness to take risks.

Abandoned Buildings
A classic setting for directors that want to crank up the tension and suspense is to use an abandoned building. Old, derelict places tend to have the characteristic of being able to evoke feelings of fear in viewers. When characters explore these places, filmmakers have the opportunity to experiment with cinematography and lighting. They can also choose to show things to the viewer through a narrow lens, adding to the feeling that something could jump out at any time.

Some of the best uses of abandoned buildings in film include 28 Days Later, Chernobyl Diaries, House on Haunted Hill, and I Am Legend. All of these pictures have high octane thrills that are taken to another level thanks to the settings used.

Courtrooms
The courtroom is an iconic location that most people will be able to identify instantly. Viewers know that this is the spot in which people’s fates are decided, and the events that occur within can have a dramatic effect on a number of lives. This is an excellent way to create tension in a film, which is why there have been countless highly successful pictures that have been set in courtrooms.


One of the best-known courtroom offerings of all time is the film adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Robert Mulligan’s drama was released in 1962 and, in 2007, it was ranked as the 25th greatest American movie of all time by AFI. Some other notable courtroom offerings include Primal Fear, A Few Good Men, and My Cousin Vinnie.

It is clear from these examples that setting plays a big part in adding tension to a scene. When combined with great cinematography and music, directors can invoke powerful emotions in viewers.

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