scribbles tagged ‘cinematography’

Vermeer composition Forbrydelsen cinematography (part 2)

Thursday, December 15th, 2011 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Adjacent room

Vermeer's painting of the 'Love letter'The viewer of a Vermeer painting is often placed at a distance where they can see the people in the scene and something of the surroundings

This can be in an adjacent room. In the ‘Love letter’ we can see a dull wall in the foreground to the left and linens on the shelves to the right – as if we, the viewers, are in the servants closet wathcing the mistress of the house pass a letter to a servant

The main action is in the centre of the painting, a well dressed lady taking a moment from playing her lute to pass a letter to a less well dressed lady, pressumably a servant. Both women are sunlit from the left hand side. Even though they are looking at each-other Vermeer has contrived a natural pose that bathes both their faces in sunlight

Viewer lying on the floor of the hallway The Killing II regularly uses this technique. A mother and child talk while the viewer watches from floor level in the hallway. Nearly half the frame is taken-up by the plain dark hallway wall on the right

Unlike Vermeer paintings, the light source is in view. It is low and to the left of the frame. Like Vermeer the reflection adds brightness and focus to the picture. The reflected light on the floor traces a line to us, the viewers

To get to this view the camera has slowly moved along the hallway until it revealed the doorway, the people, then the light source. Unlike Vermeer, cinematographers have the additional dimension of time (movement) to play with. The Killing II cinematographers appear to have carefully considered how we move from one place to another, how people, place and meaning are unravelled and intertwined visually

Voyeurs, not participants

Viewer outside the roomThe same technique is used in this mortuary scene. We, the viewer, are in the adjacent room. We can see the door in the forground to the left.  Comparing with high quality programmes like CSI and NCIS, tradtional cinematography – their approaches focus on the faces of the people in the room. We watch the reactions of the people in the room, watch them ask questions, see close-ups of relevant body parts. These traditional approaches place the viewer in the room – a participant in the post-mortem

In The Killing II we are a viewer at a distance. We watch everyone’s body language, listen to the conversation while staying slightly outside… a voyeur…

The few occassions when they break this general theme, and the actor looks directly at the viewer, become more personally impactful moments:
Actor talks directly to viewer

Vermeer composition Forbrydelsen cinematography (part 2)
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Vermeer lighting Forbrydelsen cinematography (part 1)

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

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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