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bill viola, roman osin, and painting that influences cinematography


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#1 Alex Moore Niemi

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Posted 12 February 2008 - 09:47 PM

So maybe this is stretching the guidelines a tiny bit for my first post, but I hope that's okay! I do want to talk about specific cinematographers...

While I was watching Pride & Prejudice (2005) DoP Roman Osin (dir. Joe Wright) I noticed a lot of the shots from the film reminded me greatly of compositions and subjects I'd seen in rural and landscape painting from the 18th and 19th century. (Which sort of is a duh, because that's the set period.) I wondered while I was watching it if Osin had been influenced at all in his style and shots by the way that time period portrayed itself in its art. I can't find any articles on him explaining his logic nor can I find my back issue of AC (which I remember had Knightley on the cover I think?). Does anyone recall him talking about what inspired his choices? I'd be curious to hear if he used art as inspiration at all.

Now, the next thing is sort of the sketchier thing: what do you guys think of Bill Viola's work? I know he's more technically an artist than a cinematographer. I'm thinking specifically of his Passions series. Now, I don't mean specifically just the sort of portraits of anguish/ecstasy he did with studio photography lights, but more the bigger compositions he did utilizing ideas from medieval Books of Hours. If you haven't seen it for yourself, he'd basically use very big static wide shots and sort of force perspective in some ways, mostly so that he could catch extended action in one shot.

For instance, in one he starts with a close up that keeps moving out into a wide of a couple getting dressed, then it moves out further to show the house they're in (it's a set piece, so the house has an open wall on one side for us to see through), and then we see the house is on a hill, and then--still moving wider--we see them go down the hill and a boat on a shore comes into our view until he maxes out at a super wide shot and they get in the boat. (Whew!! Long sentence! Did you follow?)

Anyway, I really actually love the way he uses space, and he explained it was inspired by the bizarre way that medieval painters used space due to different expectations of perspective. Namely that perspective was used more for emphasis than for realistic proportion or naturalism. I just thought that was pretty mega cool...

So I was wondering, what other examples do you guys have or know of where a cinematographer informed his craft by tips from another art? The obvious example is photography, but I'd really love to hear about any lessons learned from less obvious sources: painting, sculpture, etc.

Hope this was on topic enough! Looking forward to your replies! :)
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#2 David Auner aac

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Posted 13 February 2008 - 02:34 AM

Hi Alex,

look at Kubrick's Barry Lyndon for instance. Every shot is influenced by a painting of the period. Or take a look at 300 or Sin City, here the look was based on the Frank Miller graphic novels. These are just two examples, lots more are easily found.

I would say that to base ones work on existing art is the norm rather than the exception. It common practice for a director to share photos of paintings to explain the kind of look they want. And the basic principles of composition haven't changed since renaissance or baroque painting, sculpture and architecture. There's lots of classical art principles in cinematography and film in general. When framing, lighting, even if not referencing anything deliberately, you are influenced by what you have seen. We all are. So is our art.

Regards, Dave
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#3 Alex Moore Niemi

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Posted 14 February 2008 - 12:12 AM

Hi Alex,

look at Kubrick's Barry Lyndon for instance. Every shot is influenced by a painting of the period. Or take a look at 300 or Sin City, here the look was based on the Frank Miller graphic novels. These are just two examples, lots more are easily found.



Barry Lyndon is gorgeous, that's true. 300 and Sin City were a big deal not just because of the cinematography but the CG work. But then, do you consider that part of the cinematographer's scope? It's interesting to me that when 300 and Sin City came out everyone talked about how pioneering they were, for essentially borrowing from other art forms and translating them into film.
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#4 David Auner aac

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Posted 14 February 2008 - 02:58 AM

Barry Lyndon is gorgeous, that's true. 300 and Sin City were a big deal not just because of the cinematography but the CG work. But then, do you consider that part of the cinematographer's scope?


Well, yes of course. everything that has to do with the look of the film is in the cinematographers scope. Sure the look is decided on and developed together by the director and the DP, but it's your job as DP to translate the directors vision to images. And, basically, it doesn't really matter whether those images are chemical or digital!

It's interesting to me that when 300 and Sin City came out everyone talked about how pioneering they were, for essentially borrowing from other art forms and translating them into film.


I think that's the usual hype with these kinds of things. How many times have we been told that this or that were pioneering stuff? When you know you way around film history you usually find that they are not, but were preceded by far. Take the Dogma films for example, many aspects of their way of making films was done in the 1950 by the French and others. I believe this usual talk to be more marketing bs than anything else.

Cheers, Dave
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