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What is Ambiguous Space in Film?

The representation of space in visual storytelling is an important element for new and aspiring filmmakers to grasp and understand. Various types of space, including deep space, flat space, limited space, and ambiguous space in film can be represented in different shots and scenes. Resulting in various outcomes and understandings between the film and the audience. But what is ambiguous space in film? And what does ambiguous space mean?

camera crew filming on red camera

What is Ambiguous Space in Film?

Ambiguous space in film is represented by the elimination of cues. That otherwise allow the viewer to know what they are looking at. The use of ambiguous space in film is sometimes created with a hall of mirrors.

Such that the audience would be able to recognize the subject and their height. But they would not be able to tell which image of the subject was a mirror reflection and which actually was the subject themselves.

Free to Interpret

Adding various images and textures and removing visual cues that would help the viewer to connect. With what they are seeing represents ambiguous space.

Ambiguous space is not necessarily positive or negative. The idea of ambiguous space in film is to allow the viewer to make their own judgement on what is seen by eliminating visual cues that would otherwise cause a specific thought on the visual.

In other words, the ambiguous space in the film may be represented by an odd angle or a close up of a single part of an object. This with which certain visual elements that would instantly give way to what the viewer is seeing are eliminated.

It’s Not What You Think it Is

group attends conference

That’s right! Ambiguous space in film is often used to set the viewer’s mind on a path of interest, in which they might think they know what they’re looking at, but they realize quickly that it’s actually not what they think.

Ambiguous space leaves a sense of “We don’t know where we are” in the film. Sometimes, just when you think you know where you’re at in the film you receive some kind of cue that shows you that you were wrong.

Play a Trick

Ambiguous space is used to trick the audience. Often with mirrors or reflections that are used to create a bizarre viewpoint or angle.

Shooting an item from an odd angle or close up. So that it looks totally different. And you can only see a little part of it can be used for a variety of reasons in filmmaking! Oftentimes it’s for the purpose of altering the visual perception of what is being seen.

It’s Dramatic

Ambiguous space can be incredibly dramatic when it is applied in the right capacity. The use of deep, ambiguous space can be used to create a more dramatic impact on the audience.

Create a Rise in the Audience

Spacing and depth are popularly used in filmmaking to produce various emotions and to connect the audience to the scene.

But when it comes to creating ambiguous space and connecting the audience in this capacity, the combination of reflection or the close up of elements to produce ambiguity can be used to equally produce drama, too. 

So what is ambiguous space in film? It’s the elimination of visual cues that would give way to what is being viewed causing the audience to feel neither positive nor negative and to not really know where or what they are looking at.