August 28, 2013

Film review. An analysis of the cinematography of À Perdre la Raison, directed by Joachim Lafosse

À Perdre la Raison (Our Children is the title in English) is a film by Belgian director Joachim Lafosse (Élève Libre,  Nue Propriétè) whose story was freely inspired by a tragedy  happened 5 years ago that shocked Belgium.

The plot.  Mounir (Moroccan immigrant) and Murielle fall in love, get married and have 4 children, but they share their hous and life with André a doctor who has been taking care of Mounir since he arrive to Belgium. The situation generates tensions, especially inside the fragile Murielle.

Cinematography: Jean-François Hensgens
Camera:Aaton Penelope, Arricam LT, Moviecam Compact MK2
Lenses: Cooke S4
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Format: 35mm
Film Stock: Kodak Vision 5219 500T, Kodak Vision 5205 250D

Jean-François Hensgens (Darktide, District 13: Ultimtum) is a young cinematographer from Belgium who already worked with director Joachim Lafosse years ago for a short-film. The approach they made to tell the story visually is very natural. The choice of film and the Cooke S4 lenses was made in this sense. Cooke lenses produce a neat and soft image, low contrast and a soft transition from focused to out-of-focus areas. But, I think that the main reason why Cooke lenses were chosen is because of their colour reproduction: they are generally warmer than other lenses; in fact, the beginning of the film is warm, with golden colours: this helps the audience to connect with the family and the story and be closer to them; later, this sense of warmth tends to disappear till the final moments of the film: when Maurielle is driving and crying alone, she is lit by the sun-light but it is not yellowish as normally it is represented: it is white and harsh, it hurts.

The way of lighting is naturalistic: windows and lamps on set are used as source lights and Hesgens' job here is so good that you can hardly say he lit the scene. He reinforced the light coming through windows but softening it with Chimeras or Softubes, achieving a light which is natural but always diffused. Light is always bright and colourful, apart from some scenes where the landscape or the sky are in the background and for compensating the exposure he tends to under-expose the actors, which doesn't really work for the approach of not making a dark look film.

The use of camera contributes to the naturalistic look too. It's always hand-held with an easyrig following the actors all around, and often they are framed with the back facing the camera, reminding a docu-film style. The shaky camera not only allows the audience to be there with the actors and experience what they do, but also reflects the instability of the three characters, particularly Maurielle's.  The focal length used barely goes under the 50mm: telephoto lenses are preferred producing shallower depth of field and constraining the camera to move back. This results in the negative space being always filled with blurred objects which most of the time is a door frame due to location space availability, a quite pretty aesthetic that also transmits the impossibility of the characters of crossing and leaving their boundaries.

À Perdre la Raison is a nice movie that tells us an horrible tragedy in a simple and elegant way with a fine cinematography that serves well to the story.

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