Brow Beat

The Four Quadrant Technique That Makes Drive Such a Beautiful Movie

Drive, the art-house thriller that cemented Ryan Gosling as the silent, brooding hero of our time, is a pretty movie. On it’s face, it’s also a non-eventful one—most of the stuff that happens involves Gosling beating people up, chewing on a toothpick, or giving Carey Mulligan one of his coy half-smiles. But as Tony Zhou notes in his latest video essay, there’s a ton going on beneath the surface, with director Nicolas Winding Refn conveying most of the film’s information through composition.

Specifically, Refn takes advantage of the four quadrants in a frame to depict the various and often contrasting elements of a scene. The central focus of a shot rarely tells the entire story: Look closer, particularly at the top-bottom and left-right divisions at work, and you can tease out the real tensions of the narrative.