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Emmanuel Lubezki in Children of Men


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#1 Stina Dahl

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 01:13 PM

Hi,

I'm new here, and not exactly sure if I'm posting this in the right category, but I'll give it a try.

I'm a film student in my first year, and right now our assignment is to write an analysis on... whatever we wanted, really. The whole point with the exercise is to show the teachers we can analyze something not only from an audience's point of view, but as a film maker. And it had to be something that you felt you could learn from and make full use of later in your films.

So I chose cinematography, since I felt that was what I needed to learn more about (editing is considered to be my strong suit). And I went with Emmanuel Lubezki in Children of Men, more specifically the car scene.

The analysis has to contain:

- A question/hypothesis that we must answer/investigate.
- A description of what we want to find out (no more than 25% of the final text).
- The analysis
- A conclusion

I figured maybe I could try to look at the scene as a whole: what happens, the minus/plus strategy (bantering, laughing and having fun, then the exploding car, someone gets shot dead etc), basically somewhat a synopsis... and then find out how the unique cinematography in this film tells the story: unique camera technique and no cut at all during this scene.

(WARNING: contains spoiler from the film)
For example, what I have so far is that the camera sort of acts like a second person in the car. As if the audience is that person, in the car. The camera rotates and "looks" at the same things a real person would look at. When Julian gets shot, the camera moves away, as if turning away from the shooting, and then focuses the attention on the front shield breaking rather than having to look at Julian bleeding to death...

And then there is at the end of the scene where they are pulled over by police officers, and we step out of the car, and one of them suddenly shoots both the officers. The camera has stepped out as well, and when the others get back in after making sure the officers are dead, we are left behind and have to watch the car drive away (from us). When I showed this scene to my class, I had several people commenting on this, and I thought it was really interesting. "Wait for me!" and "Let me back in!" I heard.
(END spoilers)

So what I want to look at is what does this technique do for the scene itself.. Why is it better than, say, doing regular shots inside the car with "normal" cuts. How would that have affected the audience instead?

My question is, can anyone help me a little with this? Cinematography and its effects on the audience/scene/film is not something I know a lot about yet. What do you think I could write? Am I on the right track, can you help me elaborate? I have to write 4-6 pages about this.

Any help is much, much appreciated.

Thanks,
Stina

ps: I only have 12 hours left to finish writing this thing. I know. Help! ;)
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#2 Steve McBride

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 04:29 PM

If you have the DVD, watch the BTS feature on it, it has how they did the camera work in the car for that scene.

The reason why cinematographers/ directors/ editors will use long takes is to put the audience into the actual action in the film and make them a character in the story so that they can get emotions easier and have the audience react in a certain way.

Placing the camera right behind the driver's seat in the car, as you mentioned, makes the viewer feel like they are actually in the car with everyone experiencing everything that is happening.

I haven't watched the movie in a long time so I can't really think of anything else right now.
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#3 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 07:48 PM

I would totally cover the 6 minute scene at the end where the camera is in the streets and it goes into the bus, get's blood on the lens and then it goes into a building (notice how the blood dissapears).

That scene kept me on the edge of my seat. It was very reminiscent of saving private ryan. I was in the movie. I had blood on my face running through the streets.


This was a beautiful movie.


Also, when the woman who takes care of the lady having the baby get's taken off the bus, there is a narrative happening outside the windows of the bus. You see her get a black bag placed on her head, and as the bus takes off, you see the progression of what is going to happen to her. That took me a few viewings to catch, but it was great storytelling.
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#4 Sebastian Baron

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 08:39 PM

To look at a single scene in Children of Men is difficult because the entire movie flows as part of a major work as opposed to individual scenes. The choice of camera work and lighting for the movie stays consistent throughout and really speaks for the reality that they are trying to convey in the film. There is something really powerful about creating an entire scene in one cut. The truth is most people won't initially notice what is going on but the scene conveys a sense of brutal naturalism that could not have been done in any other way. Brutal naturalism, that's what I call Children of Men. The power of that scene is that it's completely real (or as real as it gets while still being a movie). There's nowhere to hide lights, nowhere to hide wires and camera crews. Everything unfolds before your eyes as if you were there. It is almost like a dream.

One of the great benefits of this process was that the actors had to act at all times because they never knew where the camera was looking. The entire scene happened. It doesn't get more organic than that. I remember the first time I watched Children of Men I felt really uncomfortable. I realized afterwards that what made me uncomfortable was how unpredictable and uncontrolled the movie felt. Watching six minute one shot sequences will make any filmmaker cringe.

Also, when the woman who takes care of the lady having the baby get's taken off the bus, there is a narrative happening outside the windows of the bus. You see her get a black bag placed on her head, and as the bus takes off, you see the progression of what is going to happen to her. That took me a few viewings to catch, but it was great storytelling.


Alfonso Cuaron and Emmanuel Lubezki are notorious for telling stories within stories. If you watch Y Tu Mama Tambien, there are two stories going on. The one the audience paid to see, and the one that sneaks its way into every frame. It's so delicate, and yet so powerful.

Edited by Sebastian Baron, 26 October 2008 - 08:42 PM.

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#5 dmitry savinov

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Posted 24 November 2008 - 03:31 PM

The most f...ing great shot in the movie is what he shot inside a car with a remote head,i mean the scene where Juluana Moore`character was killed.Amazing prep and shot!!!!
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#6 Hemant Tavathia

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Posted 04 December 2008 - 11:58 AM

The Director wants the audience to feel the tension in the story- all these characters have their lives threatened and could be killed at any moment of this scene. By using the "One Long Take" placing the audience inside the car, the Director was able to draw that feeling of helplessness from the audience. You cannot get away from that action. You are not driving the car to drive whichever way you want, you are stuck as the passenger.
If there were a lot of cuts in this scene, you wouldn't get the same feeling from the audience.
If the camera's "One Long Take" was outside the car, for example- in War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg's)- in the car scene on the highway, the camera is outside the car for the most part- The audience feels the "action" of the scene, but they don't feel the "tension" that the characters feel like they do in Children of Man.
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#7 Kenny N Suleimanagich

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Posted 12 December 2008 - 03:35 AM

i would break it down. Think of how/what that scene did to pioneer the art of cinematography. Firstly, examine the camera as a character and how it puts us IN the car rather than watching the action from multiple angles. Next, I would talk about the logistics of it, the car mods, the prep, the choreography, basically how it all went down and how something like it has never been done before. Last, I would touch on the effects it had on the cinematography community, 2 years later and it's still being discussed, he was nominated for an Academy Award in addition to winning many other awards, and talk about how it raised the benchmark of what can and can not be done with a car scene.
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