Point of view editing is a common technique of narrative cinema (also known as mainstream or Hollywood cinema), whereby we see the relationship between two shots, and they are connected by the “point-of-view” of a specific character. Simply, we first have a shot of a character looking at something, and the second shot is of what they are looking at. This might sound obvious, and it is; it is a technique that is so often used in narrative cinema that we usually don’t notice this convention, nor its implications.
Consider the scene in which Pamela Pearl (Trini Alvarado) and Nicky Marotta (Robin Johnson) first meet:
At 0.38s, we see Nicky first look at Pamela (shot 1). The next shot is of Pamela, and at 0.41s we see her look at Nicky (shot 2). Within each shot, we see several “looks,” several “gazes.”
Each image here demonstrates a different part of the character gaze, a movement of the character’s eyeline, as is also evident in the Shot 2 illustrations of Pamela:
Shot 1 is of Nicky looking at Pamela. In Shot 2, which is of Pamela — the “object” of Nicky’s gaze — we see Pamela return that gaze by looking at Nicky. This generally accords with point of view editing as described above. However, in this scene, these shots illustrate a divergence in this technique. While all three illustrations of Shot 1 show Nicky looking at Pamela, Shot 2 shows who Nicky is looking at — Pamela — but not what Nicky looks at. This is repeated in Shot 2, when we see Pamela, the Shot 1 “object” or one who is looked at, become the cinematic “subject,” the one who looks. She returns Nicky’s gaze; as with Nicky, her eyeline shifts.
At this, their first meeting, Nicky and Pamela not only “look at” each other; we also see them checking each other out.