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In all of these cases, the filmmakers add to the sense of verticality by limiting the principal action to a narrow portion of the shot. (Architects in the art deco period employed similar methods to make their skyscrapers appear taller—check out the edifice of the Chicago Board of Trade for an especially compelling example.) The playing space, seemingly much taller than it is broad, suggests a wide-screen image turned 90 degrees on its axis. It's a powerful effect, as it creates the impression that the world of the film might stretch upwards into infinity. The effect carries religious connotations in Mother Joan and Ida, though there's also a pronounced sense of wonder in Vlacil's Academy-ratio films.
One of the earliest and boldest examples of this technique can be found in D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916). Griffith wasn't the only silent-film director to play fast and loose with the parameters of the shot, but he probably played better than anyone else by blacking out different portions of the image to create frames of all sorts of shapes. During a battle sequence in the Babylon-set portion of Intolerance, Griffith shows a soldier falling to his death from the top of a tower. The action occupies just the middle third of the frame—and the left and right sides are totally black. Making the screen seem taller, Griffith makes the soldier's descent seem that much scarier. The frame that inspires us to look up can also force us to look down.