The Infinite.

“The artistic image is always a metonym, where one thing is substituted for another, the smaller for the greater. To tell what is living, the artist uses something dead; to speak of the infinite, he shows the finite. The idea of infinity cannot be expressed in words or even described, but it can be apprehended through art, which makes infinity tangible.” – Andrei Tarkovsky

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VCA BLOG POST #2 – THE CINEMATOGRAPHY OF SLAWOMIR IDZIAK

In terms of cinematography, I’ve been very intrigued and beguiled of the work of the Polish DoP, Slawomir Idziak.

Best known for his work with director Krzysztof Kieślowski, Idziak has the incredible ability to bring out the beauty in the ordinary life. His choice in movement, framing and lighting displays a certain vibrant, yet intimate quality in the stories being told.

The following is an excerpt from Kieślowski’s beautiful The Double Life of Véronique (1991):

In the clip, we see the titular character Véronique leaving a cafe, to escape the person she’s fallen for. Up until this point, she’s been confused and struggling to understand herself: this scene is the tipping point for her anxiety, and as a result, she flees. The camera stays with Veronique, almost from the point-of-view of a bystander or a close friend, keeping an eye on her. The movement remains hand-held, maintaining a documentary type of feel. We then see her enter an apartment building, and go into her own POV.

It’s hard to put my finger on exactly, but somehow Idziak manages to perfectly capture the emotions of the protagonist at all moments. His use of close-ups seem to carry the weight of the world in their simplicity:

Whether it’s in a close-up of a character’s face…

…or shooting through glass objects…

…giving an ethereal sense of transparency.

He’s a cinematographer that truly respects story:

“Being a cinematographer is not simply to have a lot of ideas, but being conscious of how a certain style is going to be accepted by the audience. The way you are going to photograph a film affects the story; changing the style of the film changes the story as well so it’s something from the very beginning – from the script – trying to see which way to photograph it to support, to underline the story.” – Slawomir Idziak

To achieve the warm, fantasy-like look of Véronique, Idziak shot on 35mm film, and applied yellow filters on the lens, as well as ND grads. He also often used red and green lights to further add to the tone and texture of the film.

On using handheld as opposed to Steadicam:

“It’s something to do with a certain sense of rhythm, you adapt easily to the actors’ rhythm. The Steadicam dampens the rhythm between the actor walking and the cinematographer walking. So I am trying a different technique, I am trying to adapt my way of working to the actors. I am breathing with them, I am walking the same steps and in my opinion you are getting the identical effect, and much faster because you don’t need all the preparation, or a special operator.”

He mentions in an interview that “if the visual side of a film is not conceived before shooting, then it will never come into being.” I admire his philosophy of seeing cinematography not just as being technically astute, but seeing visuals as a form of storytelling language. I hope to follow in his footsteps.

 

Here’s a great interview with Izdiak himself, talking about his experiences: http://moviexpress.tripod.com/id10.htm

 

“The magic of cinema consists in the fact that we bid our life farewell for a moment, and a new life emerges for us.”

 

WADJDA

Directed by Haifaa al-Mansour

Wadjda is a milestone for cinema in so many ways. A beautifully simple story wrapped in both the complex world it plays out in, and in the complex situation of it’s actual production. The director had to shoot many exterior scenes in the back of a van because she could not publicly mix with the male members of the crew. It’s real insight like this we can only gauge through the fictional stories of cinema. It’s so difficult to rate, considering the wild restrictions it was made under, but the truth is, it was still a tenderly told story. Neorealism at it’s finest – it’s a must-see.

A-

ALL IS LOST

Directed by J.C. Chandor

Robert Redford proves he can still carry a film like any other motherfucker on the planet. All Is Lost has essentially only three minutes of dialogue: the rest is pure visual storytelling. Considering the restraints, the film is pulled off effortlessly, thanks to controlled camerawork and an amazing sound mix. I’m surprised something like this even managed to get made in the first place, but it just shows you that sometimes all you need for cinema is a basic fundamental character desire. And in Redford’s case, that desire was to stay the fuck alive. It didn’t have any real character arc, and it drew the occasional groan from the audience in the screening I went to: but they all stuck around to the very end. Suckers.

B+

Simplifying Complexity

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” – Aristotle

Incredibly insightful video. How does this relate to filmmaking?

You can think of it this way: a complicated film can have a myriad of film techniques – flashbacks, non-traditional narrative, etc. – that will be made in an attempt to make it inventive and spectacular, but can often end up being messy and incoherent.

complex film however, can be one that just uses the basic understanding of what makes a film “work” and applies that rule to a greater extent in a multi-layered situation.

Inception for example: a clear three-act structure film that follows all the rules, but takes place in the confines of the subconscious.

In other words: keep it simple.

THE WIND RISES

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

It feels like such an honour to get to finally watch a film by the great Hayao Miyazaki in cinemas. All his films are injected with pure imagination and love for the art-form, and The Wind Rises is no exception. It’s a beautiful, tender film about love and dreams in times of war and sickness. Miyazaki makes films which illicit that rare, magnificent effect in an audience: he makes you feel truly alive.

A

“RUST”

The below is a draft of the short story I eventually submitted for my VCA application. The final draft was unfortunately lost when my computer crashed, but the draft is still pretty close. The theme the story had to follow was that of “TIME”.

“This here boy…” the old man grizzled in a weary breath. “…This here’s the ticket.”

Jessop was staring out the cabin window at the cold night sky. He looked over at the old man lying still in bed – the man that once resembled his father. The old man had begun unraveling the crumpled brown package from under his bed.

“…Your mother wouldn’t want me giving you this.”

A worn, rusted Navy revolver sat in his father’s lap, cold and motionless.

“It’s a bit worn down these days. There’s oil in the second drawer, behind ya. Fetch it, and pour some firewater for your old man while you’re at it.”

“Yessir.”

Jessop walked over to the wardrobe, grabbed the can of oil and some steel wool, and passed his father the remains of the whiskey bottle.

“Listen…… don’t let yourself turn into an old bastard like me,” the old man huffed. “Time only makes you bitter. If I even had half the pair that you have, I would’ve ended it when your mother died.”

The boy stopped cleaning the gun. He looked his father dead in the eyes. The candle on the bedside table was casting a large shadow on the old man’s face.

“What do you want from me?”

The old man paused to look at his son. He licked his gums and took a generous swig from the bottle.

“Ahhh………. Look here boy. You ain’t a child no more. It’s time you took responsibility in doin’ what’s right.”

Jessop continued to stare down the old man.

“Eight years… Eight years, we been without your mother.”

There was a silence that filled the cabin. The only sounds were from the crickets outside. Jessop took a deep breath, and returned to cleaning his father’s revolver. The old man, beginning to turn crimson, shifted in his sheets to get comfortable.

“…Murderers, thieves, goddamn chickenshits;” the old man muttered to himself with a quiet hostility. “These are the kinds of people that stole her from me, you hear? From both of us. The kind that deserve nothin’ but a shallow grave.”

“It was a long time ago, pop-“

“Boy, I don’t give a damn if it was a hundred years ago. It still wasn’t her time.”

The old man was clenching tightly onto the whiskey bottle, his breath fogging the glass with each word.

“Didn’t deserve what happened to her… I know you don’t remember her like you should, but she loved you. She loved you more than me, that’s for damn sure… …Always said you’d make the most of your time on this world. People come and go, but you was gon’ make her proud.”

The crickets outside began to mute. Only the flickering of the candle remained, the wax slowly melting to a harsh stub.

“Boy…” the old man said with a whiskey-soaked grimness.

“…You deserve revenge.”

Jessop eyes widened.

“Wh…what do you mean? ….Revenge?”

His father remained still – he was drunk as a mop, but his eyes were suddenly communicating a message so cold it ran a sharp chill down Jessop’s spine.

“Nuh uh, no way!” Jessop spluttered, jumping out of his chair.

“No way what?”

“I ain’t killin’ no one! No way!”

“And why’s that, boy?”

“I-I’m too young to kill! I don’t got it in me!”

“Bullshit!” the old man spat. “Aint a single person in this world who aint capable of takin’ a life. Now sit down and calm yourself boy. I didn’t raise no Miss Nancy.”

Jessop began to breathe heavily, but obeyed his father and took his seat.

“Now…” The old man stopped to cough. “I aint never teach you how to kill a man. But see, that ain’t my job. That’s somethin’ only you can learn yerself.”

“Why me!?” Jessop wailed. “Why can’t you do it? If you can hold a glass, you can hold a gun!”

“Haven’t squeezed a trigger in thirteen years, boy. Heck, alcohol was a hard enough habit to kick.” The old man smirked wryly as he emptied the bottle, swirling the whiskey around like mouthwash.

“Anyway, I got the ammo just here. Hey – look at me!”

Jessop had tears in his eyes. He wiped them away with his sleeve, as the old man’s voice deepened.

“…You gotta do it boy. The man who took her away aint but a dime’s worth of dog meat, we both know that. There’s a difference between murder and justice.”

Jessop began to feel nauseous. As his father handed him the bullets, a lump in his throat began to surface.

“Time aint kind to most folk. Can’t polish the rust off a man quite as easy as you can the barrel of a pistol.”

Jessop steadily loaded the gun, the click of the cylinder ringing in his ears. He took several deep breaths to calm down, looking into the eyes of the old man once more.

“Life is short son. That’s how it is….. That’s how it should be. Pain’s what makes every single day that much longer… And in my case, every day’s lasted a fuckin’ year.”

And with that, Jessop took a final deep breath, pointed the gun at his father and pulled the trigger.