The Cinematography of Drive

Drive is probably the best film I have seen in the cinema all year. This isn’t a very original statement and even people saying “I know you’ve probably heard this a thousand times before, but go see Drive.” is somewhat cliched. Recommendations for the film are ubiquitous, which I’m actually a little surprised by – films that I rate highly often go unnoticed, produce a love-it-or-hate-it response, or have a slew of negative reviews.

The cinematography and the soundtrack are so important to Drive, they are almost characters. They are intertwined and tonally aligned and it makes for a really absorbing experience.

The street lights hitting Gosling’s face as he drives and the dimming of the light in the now-famous elevator kiss scene are particularly exciting – all mixed with a great, dark electro-synth soundtrack.

The film was DP’d by Newton Thomas Sigel and shot on ARRI Alexa – one of 2 or 3 cameras that I would love to kick the tyres on.

Find out more about the cinematography of the film in the following interviews with Sigel:


The Cinematography of ‘The Black Swan’

This has been a good couple of weeks for cinema-going, after seeing 127 Hours and The King’s Speech, I managed to get tickets to an advanced preview of The Black Swan. The film has been out for quite a while in the US and was in film festivals last summer but is only being released to the UK audiences proper today.

I really enjoyed the dark tale and found the handheld style to really work with the film. There are some debates on the internet about the merits of this kinetic style, but I felt closer to the action and felt like I was getting in Natalie Portman’s character’s head and was struggling along with her. It had touches of Cronenberg about it and was totally different again from the two films I mention above and some visual similarities to Kieslowski and Repulsion/Rosemary’s Baby. This different world that they created was one of the main things that I took away from the film; so familiar yet so alien.

The Cinematographer, Matthew Libatique, used a 5DMKii to shoot the rehearsals and have reference footage for how he would later shoot (on 16mm) – which I think is a great use of a camera that I have and want to maximise its potential. They ended up using 7Ds and 1DMKIVs for some shots where smaller set-ups and crews were necessary. He shot with a “Canon 24mm lens at 1,600 ASA to get as much depth of field as possible at a stop of T81⁄2” and pulled focus by hand. It’s nice to see the big guys doing stuff that is comparable to independent and tiny operations. I couldn’t tell the difference between the film and digital, but I didn’t know then – maybe if I went back to it and focused less on the story. Usually, my first watch is to take in the story as much as possible.

Find out more, including what a Texas switch is and its origin, in this interview with Libatique.

The Cinematography of ‘The King’s Speech’

Colin Firth in The King's Speech

I went to see The King’s Speech last night, after ubiquitous rave reviews. I enjoyed it as much as anyone else but found that the cinematography excited me most.

It was all fog and wide angle distortion and natural lighting. There’s always some debate when a film comes out looking different from the typical, often causing a Marmite love-it-or-hate-it situation, but I found it really refeshing. The colouring and close-ups were superb.

In one scene, where Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter walk down a flight of stairs, they almost walk into darkness and it’s this avoidance of studio- or over-lighting that makes it feel more real.

Cinematographer Danny Cohen talks about it a little here and there are some caps from the trailer here.

The Cinematography of ‘127 Hours’

Crew Shooting 127 Hours

Click above to see the video.

This blog won’t be all technical and the proof is in the pudding. Some inspiration and theory for you today.

I was interested in what equipment was used on the production of 127 Hours and how they created the unique, visceral style.

My intention was to embed the video in this post, but WordPress seemed to struggle with that so click the image above or here to go to the source.