June 19, 2013

Film review. An analysis of the cinematography of Trance, by Danny Boyle

Trance is the last work by very well known director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Shining, Slumdog millionaire, 147 Hours...) shot during a break among the two tears preparation for the London Olympic show.

The plot. An art auctioneer who joined a group of criminals for an inside job, has to seek the help of hypnosis to find a lost painting. But the line between reality, suggestion and desire becomes more and more undefined.

Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mentle
Camera: Arri Alexa, Phantom Gold, Canon Eos 1D MarkIV, Canon Eos C500, Indiecam IndiePov
Lenses: Zeiss Ultra Prime, Fujinon Alura, Hawk V-Lite, Canon, Indiecam lenses
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Format: ARRIRAW, Canon cinema Raw, H264, CinemaDNG
Film Stock: -

Danny Boyle confirmed again his usual collaborator Anthony Dod Mentle as cinematographer for Trance. In the first image of the film the light is quite theatrical and expressionist, then the following scene the light becomes natural. I could not understand the meaning of it till the plot develops: the whole movie is a game between reality, hypnotic suggestions and lies, creating confusion among characters and audience. Mentle played with this confusion by using light in different ways, alternating naturalism and expressionism with a tendency for the last one, never, or almost never, justifying the light source and always positioning the light source on the side of the character creating a strong contrast (1:3 or even greater sometimes) on the face of the actors leaving it half in shadow, with a stronger split for Vincent Cassel and James McAvoy and a softer one for Rosario Dawson. This lighting set-up creates a chiaroscuro throughout the film that highlights the fact that no one of the characters say entirely the truth and everyone seems to be hiding something. 

The use of the rim light helps this concept too: it is quite strong, often used as key light, sometimes exaggerated (and blowing some areas of the image) and always helping to create a sense of mystery, strength and menace. Memories play an important part in the film: Mentle gives them different texture and aesthetic using different cameras and a huge selection of lenses: of course he used the Phantom for the high frame rates shot and the indiPov , the world smallest HD camera shooting RAW, for placing the camera in unconventional places; when shooting with  the Eos camera, he added a soft diffusion filter on the lens to soften the hard line  Canon cameras produce. The choice of the focal length is never extreme, apart from few shots were an extreme wide angle lens is used and where the camera is placed at a very low angle. 

There's no camera movement worth to point out because Mentle used instead peculiar locations to help telling the story visually: they are full of shimmering surfaces, creating multiple reflections of the characters, in great consonance with the plot. When he could not manipulate the surface, he used flares. Another interesting decision is the use of colour in some scenes: a single colour pops out vivid from the rest which are quite dull, like the scene of the Selfridges bag.

Anthony Dod Memtle made a very good job with the cinematography of Trance, a film well crafted and entertaining, but, honestly not as good as other Danny Boyle's works: he has proved that he can make far better films.

Cinematography: Laurie Rose
Camera: Red MX
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Format: RedCode RAW
Film Stock: -
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1 comment:

  1. Are you saying it was not a good film as the others? Just by commenting that way in just a few lines the cinematographic techniques used for the film?