A Dreamer Walking

Adam Kimmel – Cinematographer – Never Let Me Go

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies, Scene Analysis, Screenshot Series by Jacob on March 24, 2014

Never Let Me Go 1:4

Here are a series of shots from a scene in the movie Never Let Me Go (2010) I wanted to critique. Kathy, our protagonist, just over-heard her closest friend, Ruth, and the boy she loves, Tommy, having sex and and chose to listen to a piece of music to take her mind off of what what is going on. The thing is she is listening to music Tommy gave her so we know her mind is still on Tommy. Her body language says a lot as well. She is almost hugging the tape recorder as if she wishes the take she is playing was Tommy himself. Notice how cinematographer Adam Kimmel and director Mark Romanek frame Kathy. They are using the rule of thirds, placing her eye line just at the top left third of the frame. This is known as an effective harmonizing way to frame a character. Usually the face is the center focus of a picture. If Kathy’s head was too high or there was a lot of empty space at the top of the frame the audience would be thrown off because the image wouldn’t feel balanced. Her face is lit with a nice warm light from the right. Though it is a dark scene we get the sense of peace and calmness Kathy must feel listening to Tommy’s song. Kathy opens her eyes and we cut to this next image.

Never Let Me Go 2:4

Talk about a haunting image. This is Kathy’s friend Ruth standing in the doorway. Right away the eyes is thrown off because the director and cinematographer go against the rule of thirds and place Ruth’s head at the very top and too far toward the middle of frame. Yet the eyes do instantly go to Ruth. The doorway is a great framing device and the top of the dresser and the wall frames direct our eyes to her position. The filmmakers hide Ruth’s face which throws us off even more because we can’t get a good read on her emotions. The wallpaper to the right and shambled looking robe Ruth is wearing only adds to the dark mood. From this image we can tell Ruth isn’t here to befriend Kathy. She is like a dark spirit from nightmare. Lets fast forward a few shots.

Never Let Me Go 3:4

Ruth has begun to talk to Kathy about how she will never be with Tommy. She is hurting Kathy at her core and the imagery reflects as much. Again the filmmakers put Kathy’s face in a much more balanced place then Ruth’s. Ruth’s face is completely in shadow and her head partly cut off at the top of the frame. The filmmakers are not afraid to work with darkness. The focus point of the image is Kathy’s eye. The light hits it just right. The eyes are the mirrors of the soul and we sense the effect Ruth’s cruel words have on Kathy emotionally. The only real color shown in the frame comes from the green wallpaper. The green compliments the toxic words spouting from Ruth’s mouth.

Never Let Me Go 4:4

The filmmakers cut to this shot while Ruth is still in frame. They get closer and closer as Ruth’s words become more and more painful. But we linger on Kathy after Ruth leaves. The darkness surrounds Kathy more then ever now. We can see the effect Ruth has had on her. Again Kathy’s eyes are able to say so much. She has been completely destroyed with Ruth’s monologue.

These represent a very effective set of imagery and the music and dialogue only enhance the scene. It is a good study on the effectiveness of limiting the lighting in the scene. As good as the production might have been we don’t need to see all of it. Our eyes are allowed to focus on the important parts because the other areas are shaded. This is the darkest scene dramatically in the movie. Kimmel and Romanek want to express the darkness visually and in every shot they do so.

(Visiuals courtesy of EVEN E RICHARDS)

Unconventional Filmmaking

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on January 28, 2012

A sad moment in film usually is expressed with a lot of shadow, somber music playing in the background, a cool color scheme, and a shallow depth of field. A joyful moment is usually expressed through playing happy music and having very worm colors in frame. Film language has been developed for more then a hundred years. Most professional filmmakers know the conventional way to shoot any type of scene. The question I want to pose in this blog post is, when does it become more effective to shoot a scene in a unconventional way.

Sometimes sadness is better expressed through showing beauty. Sometimes insanity is expressed best through calm and calculated shots. Some of the greatest moments in film are achieved through the director going the unconventional rout. Stanley Kubrick is just one director who often filmed in unexpected ways. In his movie A Clockwork Orange we see the main character Alex and his gang rape a woman while he sings “Singing in the Rain”. There is no emotion expressed through the way the camera is used. You would expect a lot of hand held movement, with harsh music playing, and a lot of close ups of the woman getting rapped, showing how hurt she is from the whole event. However, there really isn’t any of that. We know the immorality of what we are seeing on screen. We get a better understanding of Alex however through the direct contrast between his evil actions and his nonchalant attitude. Kubrick’s understated filming of the scene only amplifies the horror.

Another movie that does a fantastic job going the unconventional rout is Never Let Me Go. The basic concept of the story is nothing new. We are introduced to a world where cloning is used to create individuals whose sole purpose is to donate their organs so that the rest of society can have a longer lifespan. There are several conventional ways the filmmakers could have gone about telling this story. We could have had the typical storyline of clones who try to escape from their horrific fate. Then there is the big sci-fi aspect most filmmakers would try to highlight, showing the factory farms where the clones are created and how they are treated like dirt by the rest of the world. However, in Never Let Me Go the main characters don’t try to escape and the idea that these characters are clones is underplayed. Instead we see how the clones are manipulated to believe their organ donating is their purpose and duty in life. We are forced to come to the understanding that the main characters will be killed right in the prime of their lives. The story does not try to villainize the rest of society. Instead the movie concentrates on connecting us with the characters who will eventually be killed. The more we connect with the characters the more horrifying the understanding of their eventual death becomes.

Never Let Me Go could have been shot with a lot of cold callous colors. Instead the filmmakers chose to express beauty in almost every frame. The school the clones lived in as children is a gorgeous location, overwhelmed with vibrant colors. Every shot is a thing of beauty in Never Le Me Go. We are constantly reminded about the vibrancy of life and the magnificent world these characters are soon going to leave. The beauty we see along with our understanding of the clone’s fate creates a much deeper sadness then any dark shadowy composition.

You will have many critics if you choose to go a unconventional rout. Hitchcock was given a lot of grief when he committed to killing off his main protagonist half way through the movie Psycho. Yet, now the movie is considered by me and many others to be his greatest achievement in his magnificent film career. Don’t feel the need to shoot unconventionally for the sake of shooting unconventionally. The conventional film language has stuck around for a reason. Usually the best way to get the best reaction from an actor is by going to a close up. Usually the best way to express chaos is through quick cuts and loud sound effects. However, sometimes a long shot can capture an actor’s performance far more effectively then a close up. Sometimes you need to hold a shot and take away the sound to show the intensity of a situation. As filmmakers we must remember every story has a different way of expressing itself.