July 31, 2013

Stills from film. An analysis and a possible light diagram of a scene from The Man Who wasn't There

Cinematography: Roger Deakins
Camera: Arriflex 535B
Lenses: Cooke S4
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Format: 35mm
Film Stock: Kodak Vision 5277 320T

The Man who wasn't there, by the Coen brothers, is a magnificent job by the great cinematographer Roger Deakins, who shot it on Kodak 5277 film stock, a colour negative with softer and more pastel look now discontinued, and processed it in black and white. In the scene above, the lawyer is explaining to B.B. Thornton and his wife, his new idea to get her out of jail. Deakins used just one light in the scene: a strong HMI placed in the zenith high on a crane as we can see from the very defined shadows. He also used some smoke to make the scene more dramatic. By just using this simple set-up, Deakins achieves the tight atmosphere to enhance the story. The lawyer is speaking about the reality: "there's no what happen: looking at something changes it. Our look defines the reality". Deakins translates this concept into a powerful image. He uses a theatrical light, from above which is like saying: there's no reality, only a representation of reality. Also, light coming from above is related to the divine, the inspiration: the lawyer has the idea, he is the only one bathed in light and well defined as silhouette. Light is the Word, the Truth, shadows are ignorance, not-to-know; that's why all other subjects are left in half shadow. The only character left entirely in shadows is B.B. Thornton; light is Good, shadows are Evil, the circular form  drown by light  unconsciously reminds it as well: as we know, Thornton is guilty of the crime his wife has been accused of.

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