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In episode 3 of Fargo, titled "A Muddy Road", the 180° rule is broken during this particular scene, at about 43 minutes into the episode (according to HULU). I couldn't find a clip of the scene online. Sorry.

In the scene Gus, the cop from Duluth, is speaking to Molly at her father's diner. When Molly addresses Gus' daughter Greta, the new camera angle seems to break the 180° rule.

This moment occurs at precisely 43:43 minutes into the episode (once again according to HULU's timecode). I was always taught that the 180° rule is only ever broken when the director has very good reason which usually has to do with storytelling.

Does anyone know why this scene would be filmed in such a way?

  • BTW - I just noted there were 3 people in the described scene in quick succession. What I was reading suggested the 180° rule mostly applied to scenes in which a single clear line could be drawn between two objects, like two people, or two sides of the screen. Adding a third element to the scene would logically change all that, and the 180° rule would no longer apply / be relevant. (that's what I'm thinking, though I only heard of the rule due to this question!). – Andrew Thompson Jan 29 '16 at 7:15
  • You're right in a sense. The 180° rule is used to describe two people talking. It's followed to avoid disorienting the viewer. However when you add more people, the rule is still followed, it's just harder to explain (hence examples usually only discuss two characters in dialogue). The director still doesn't want to disorient their audience even with three, four, five characters on screen talking. No matter how many people you add, you still draw a line and never cross it. The only difference is that placing the line becomes harder, more complicated. – Atticus Jan 29 '16 at 7:18
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    BTW - a tip: Add @FranciscoV. (or whoever, the @ is important) to notify the person of a new comment. – Andrew Thompson Jan 29 '16 at 7:23
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    Having seen the first two seasons, its pretty evident to me that Noah Hawley is a very ambitious filmmaker and its likely that he was simply playing around with style, breaking the rules just to break the rules, etc. Its also possible that this, like just about everything else in Fargo, is a reference to something the Coen brothers have done in one of their movies. I'll have to watch the scene and come back with a better answer later. – sanpaco Jan 29 '16 at 17:43
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    Agreed with @sanpaco, I think it's something they did in the series to give hommage to the Coen brothers filmmaking style, in which they often turn the camera around to reveal a trivial element of the surroundings of the characters that we didn't always know was there or could play a part in the scene. – MicroMachine Feb 28 '16 at 1:31
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Remember the 180 degree rule only applies WHEN breaking it results in disorienting the viewer. There are many scenarios where 'breaking' the rule does not result in disorientation, and therefore is not actually 'breaking' it.

A good example is any scene taking place in a car. If you've got both your characters in the driver and passenger seat, breaking the 180 rule is not going to cause any disorientation or confusion because we have the car itself giving us the visual layout of everything - this happens in the opening scene of Zodiac when the young couple are in their car at a 'lovers' lane'. The camera jumps from in front of them to behind in mid-conversation, but it works because they're in a car.

You'd actually be surprised how often the 180 degree 'rule' is broken in these regards.

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There are three individuals involved in the conversation. This is actually a text book case of shifting action lines as described in the following video about the 180 degree rule:

The video explains that movement within a scene can cause the action line to shift and uses the example of a 3 person dialogue scene to explain. Since the scene you are talking about is in fact a 3 person dialogue scene, it actually uses the 180 degree exactly as it should. Notice that the changing camera angle ONLY occurs when Molly is addressing Greta. This is because the action line shifts from being between Gus and Molly to being between Greta and Molly. Its actually a really good example.

So ultimately I'd say the scene doesn't break the 180 degree rule because:

  • It uses a shifting action line due to a three person conversation
  • It doesn't disorient the viewer and in fact helps establish point of view.

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