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Thursday, March 27, 2014

2nd blog task for bfaftv2 - Cinematography – let there be light!!!

Part A
Sven Nykvist has to be one of my most admired cinematographers.  I have come to know Sven’s works through my admiration for Ingmar Bergman films.  When watching these Bergman films, I am completely absorbed in the thoughts of the characters as though they are my very thoughts.  Sven had been criticised for his preference of natural light over studio light.  He once said “I prefer to shoot on location because in the studio you have too many possibilities, too many lights to destroy your whole picture” in an interview with Ronald Bergan in a Guardian article.
What distinguishes film from theatre is that film has the ability to pierce through the character’s mind and heart, and perhaps the soul too.  It could isolate the character’s psychology and state of mind for the audience to peek into, there’s a frightening and wonderful sense of intimacy which only the film medium could provide.  The perversion of the character’s psychology one might like to put.  This is the precise reason that I love Sven’s work, his cinematography skill and camera direction deliver exactly this.  As Bergman’s films mainly deal with the drama of our human psychology, emotion and state of being, the human physiognomies are often framed almost like a portrait, a painting, or a striking canvas which strip bare of the character’s emotion, and displays the character’s very moment state of being.  Stephen Holden from the New York Times quoted:  In his films, especially those with Mr. Bergman, light assumed a metaphysical dimension that went beyond mood. It distilled and deepened the feelings of torment and spiritual separation that afflicted Bergman characters. But in scenes of tranquillity filmed outdoors, the light might also evoke glimpses of transcendence. The sumptuous scenes of a Scandinavian Christmas in “Fanny and Alexander” burst with warmth and a magical, childlike joy.”
In my 2nd semester project, I too aim for a naturalistic approach to my film, hoping to capture the character’s psychology rather than emotion, state of being rather than actions.  I find that Sven’s works closely resemble to what I want to achieve in my films. (link to this portraiture shot which I love)

Part B
To achieve the look of Bergman’s films, Sven collaborated closely with Ingmar, going with him to the location and studied the condition and the changes of the light of the location over time, as this would affect their vision and the practical approach to shooting and lighting the location.  Both Sven and Ingmar heavily placed the significance of light changes in relation to the meaning of the character’s actions.  For example, for “Winter Light”, Sven had commented that “Ingmar and I went to a real church during our preparation and took photos every five minutes to study how the winter light changed over a similar time period
In the close up portraiture shot of the characters, Sven liked to emphasise the light refection in the character’s eyes, he believed that it is true to life.  In his very own words “Capturing these reflections helps to give the impression of a human being thinking. It’s very important to me to light so that you can sense what lies behind a character’s eyes.  I always aim to catch the light in the eyes, because I feel they are the mirror of the soul.  Truth is in the actor’s eyes and very small changes in expression can reveal more than a thousand words
Sven highly admired the simplicity on the use and availability of the equipment, through his experience, he had learnt to trust his eyes and feeling.   I’m not really a very technical person.  I don’t measure the highlight and shadows, for example; I decide such things by eye.  I like to draw from experience and from my feelings when I shoot.  Sometimes I feel ashamed at my lack of interest in all the new techniques of modern film-making, but I prefer to work with as little equipment as possible”.  I am yet at the stage where I am able to trust my eyes and intuition when it comes to shooting or choosing a particular lighting condition for the frame, though with the very little artistic intellect of the my eyes, I know when a frame is what I want and whether the character is being brought to life.  I hope to acquire more technical knowledge on lighting and camera work, knowing the possibilities that the equipment can provide before I can decide on what is minimal or overly complex.
Similar to Sven’s approach, I draw inspiration from looking at paintings (especially those of Rembrandt and Caravaggio) and photography (Henri Bresson), as these inform me on the important of lighting and the stylistic approaches to portray the character/s or set the scene.  Sven once said “A great deal of my inspiration comes from painting and stills photography.  For example, in preparing for Pretty Baby (78) Louis Malle and I spent a lot of time studying Vermeer’s paintings, specifically the way he uses light

References:; Sven Nykvist interview from Cinematography Screencraft by Peter Ettedgui, Focal Press (imprint of Butterworth-Heinemann - Copyright – RotoVision SA 1998)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

1st post for bfaftv2 - films and foes

First task:
Cinematic art comprises of both sound and the moving pictures.  My passion for film comes from my love for music and the moving pictures.  What I most cherish about life is those moments, for one reason or another, permanently stain your memory, like the remnant of blood that Lady Macbeth could not wash from her hands despite her OCD hand-washing nature.  Though, these moments do not necessarily have to produce those neurotic, crazy reactions as they did to her.  They could be tender, loving, erratic, contemplative, delusional, religious and whatever else that our being is allowed to feel and experience.  My passion for film is my search for these moments whether in my life or in the characters that I’m exploring.  DH Lawrence once wrote that “beauty is an experience”, as a student filmmaker, I too, attempt to capture beauty through experience, by creating unforgettable moments for the characters (and hopefully the audiences who are open to experience), or moments that encapsulate a concept, a meaning that I wish to communicate.  For example, you might ask, how would I communicate this “moment” penned by Virginia Woolf from Mrs Dalloway, “For she was a child throwing bread to the ducks, between her parents, and at the same time a grown woman coming to her parents who stood by the lake, holding her life in her arms, which as she neared them, grew larger and larger in her arms, until it became a whole life, a complete life, which she put down by them and said ‘This is what I have made of it! This!’ And what had she made of it? What, indeed?”
Yes, indeed, how would I communicate that moment to the audience?  It is my hope and dream to precisely do so through the cinematic medium.

Second task:
One of the films which greatly inspires and intrigues me is “Witgenstein” by Derek Jarman.  Witgenstein is a semi-biography of the philosopher Ludwig Witgenstein, it focuses on the philosophical progression of Witgenstein rather the factual events of his life.  I love the abstract, colourful world created by Derek which greatly contrasts the profound subject matter of the film.  Additionally, the theatre-like setting of the film allows the use of symbolism, and further accentuating the thoughts of the film to the audiences.  This film has greatly influent my understanding of philosophy, and the space of my life which I allow philosophy to occupy.  Bellow is a link to one of the clips of the film: