Created By: DonQuigleone on January 16, 2012 Last Edited By: morenohijazo on October 5, 2013

Pillow Shot

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An intervening shot of scenery or something else relatively innocuous between two scenes, or in the middle of dialogue. Fairly common in Japanese Cinema and Anime, first attributed to Yasujiro Ozu.

Generally it consists of a still of the sky, or a building, with some kind of ambient noise in the background, usually crows, the wind, or cicadas or even crowds murmuring.

If you could remove the shot, and it would have no effect on the plot, or the viewers understanding of it, it's a pillow shot.

Often an Aspect Montage

Watch pretty much any anime and you'll see a pillow shot at some point. Due to that fact, I think only having particularly egregious examples is necessary.
Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • January 16, 2012
    Related to Aspect Montage.
  • January 16, 2012
    Not to be confused with using a pillow as an impromptu gun suppressor.

  • January 18, 2012
    @Tony G

    Pillow Shots are often an Aspect Montage, good find.
  • April 23, 2012
    ^ The trope name's Pillow Pistol, for reference. defines it as a transition between characters' suffering and still life. Consider refining description to distinguish from Aspect Montage?

  • April 23, 2012
    Where does the name "Pillow Shot" come from?
  • April 23, 2012
    Established term, though hard to say where it comes from... Would guess one of Ozu's films has a famous Pillow Shot with an actual pillow or something.
  • April 23, 2012
    ^Does it have to be called "Pillow Shot", though? It's not a very clear name, and before I opened the YKTTW, I thought for sure that the trope was going to be about using a pillow to silence a weapon.
  • April 23, 2012
    David Lynch likes these. Examples include shots of some traffic lights in Twin Peaks and a robin in a tree in Blue Velvet.

    I think the name Pillow Shot should definitely be used if it's a technical term or used in the industry. I'm kind of with nman in that I first assumed it was something else (idk, like a shot of a character with their head on a pillow, or shots that parody The Godfather with the horse's-head-on-a-pillow thing.) but it makes perfect sense when you find out what it is. It's padding between scenes, it's a cushioning effect between one scene and the next. Easy!
  • April 23, 2012
    Yes, if it's a pre-existing term, it's best to use it.

    This page: says "the term is derived from Japanese poetry"

    The other wiki: Says there are "pillow words" which are figures of speech where certain words are always grouped together.

    And the pillow shots are described as: "they often refer to a character ... presenting ... it out of a narrative context. ... People are perhaps known to be near, but for the moment they are not visible, and a rooftop, a street-light, laundry drying on a line, a lampshade or a tea-kettle is offered as centre of attention. The essence of the pillow shot, then, lies in the tension between the suspension of human presence and its potential return."

    The connection between pillow words and pillow shots is not obvious to me. Perhaps it's like the still objects are associated with characters the same way the words are associated with one another in the poems.

    I had seen this but didn't have a name for it. Thanks.

    If you want an egregious example, some episodes of Kareshi Kanojo no Jijo seem like they are made up of 90% pillow shots.

  • April 23, 2012
    Looking at Wikipedia, "intermediate spaces" and "empty shots" are two other pre-existing terms for the exact same thing. They both seem much clearer as well.
  • April 23, 2012
    I'm cool with having the page be "pillow shot" if that's the technical term used in the film biz, but I think at the very least we need some redirects from more obvious names.
  • April 24, 2012
    Redirects solve about 90% of problems, what would we do without them?
  • April 26, 2012
    ^^^ we all know the position of ickypedia on "pre-existing terms", right?
  • January 22, 2013
    So, what's exactly the difference between this and Aspect Montage?
  • January 22, 2013
    I guess it's one aspect of the Aspect Montage. So this isn't quite a subtrope, but it's certainly related.

    ... who gave this a hat, anyway? The name isn't determined, there's no laconic, and the description needs work.

    There's a handful of other names on this page: I think sacrificing the most common name (that no one has ever heard of) for one of the less common, but apparently still recognized terms that actually describe the trope better would be wise.
  • October 5, 2013
    • Nichijou uses them frequently, occasionally referencing previous sketches or showing the characters doing genuinely mundane activities without the usual intensity.
    • The second recap episode of GirlsUndPanzer does this between almost every scene, showing various versions of the school's mascot.
  • October 5, 2013
    I'd probably be careful with calling this Pillow Shot, since even if it's somewhat established within film circles, there are two easy but incorrect interpretations of the term (shot of a head on a pillow/Godfather spoof/silencing a gun with a pillow).

    Some other terms that were used appear to be Curtain Shot, Empty Shot, and Intermediate Space. Of these I think Curtain Shot is the one least likely to be misused.

    Another way to describe them appears to make an analogue to a Still life painting, which could give us Still Life Shot.
  • October 5, 2013
    Subtrope of Padding, I think.