Vermeer lighting Forbrydelsen cinematography (part 1)

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The cinematography for the original Danish TV drama  ‘Forbrydelsen II’ (‘The Killing II’) is wonderfully atmospheric. The imagery reminds me of paintings by the 17th century Dutch master artists Johannes Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch. This is the first of several scribbles exploring the masters’ possible influence

Viewers eyeline

The viewer of Vermeer’s paintings often has the eyeline of a person crouching, 10 or so feet from the main subject. Thier eyes are about 3 foot above floor.  ‘The Killing II’ often places the viewer in the same position, especially when the main players are seated.  This positioning of the viewer was unusual in 17 century paintings and it’s unusual in 21st century TV cinematography. I find the effect pleasing and engaging, as-if I am in the room but not so close to intrude on the main conversation

Viewer At Table     A lady writing a letter - painting by Johannes Vermeer

Lightsource out of frame, left

The use of reflected light, above on the table, is also striking and atmospheric

In Johannes Vermeer’s ‘A lady writing a letter’ the light source is outside the painting to the left, the primary light within the painting comes from reflected light on her face, dress and forearms

viewer at the tableVermeer’s paintings are typically lit from a source outside of view, to the left of the painting. ‘The Killing II’ shows a similar preference for low light from the left hand side. Light within the frame is balanced by using reflection of walls, faces and objects. In this still from ‘The Killing II’ the room is lightened by reflection from a white table, water bottles, drinking glasses and the face of the woman who looks towards the light source

I wonder who had the insight to set this visual direction and stick with it – Producer? Cinematographer, a collaboration? Sadly, the BBC4 website for ‘The Killing II’ doesn’t provide this kind of background information


Vermeer lighting Forbrydelsen cinematography (part 1)
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