Jump to content


Photo

The Abdication (1974)


  • Please log in to reply
6 replies to this topic

#1 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19761 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 15 December 2010 - 02:20 AM

As part of my lifelong obsession with seeing everything Geoffrey Unsworth ever shot...years ago, I saw this movie on cable (it may have been the infamous Z Channel where I also saw the long version of Storaro's "Wagner", all 10 hours...), I remembered how diffused the flashback scenes were, very dreamlike, beyond even Unsworth's normal heavy fog-filtered stuff.

Finally, Warners Archives put it out on a cheap DVD, so-so transfer, but I was able to see it again. An interesting stagebound drama about Queen Christina of Sweden being interrogated by a cardinal in the Vatican when she arrives after abdicating in order to become a Catholic... The main character is an insomniac, so Liv Ullmann plays her in a constant state of feverishness and tiredness, must have been hard for Unsworth, who always liked to make his leading ladies look glamorous.

The flashbacks to her reign in Sweden are extremely smoked and diffused, sometimes even with a smear of vaseline on the lens. The rest of the movie looks like it was shot with his normal #2 Fog filter but less smoke on the sets.

I find his style fascinating because it really is a bridge between the hard-lit and glossy studio era and the later rougher naturalism of the 1970's, so the look is somehow both hard and soft at the same time. The use of fog and diffusion has inspired me on any number of projects, when I can get away with it (which isn't often). Keep in mind, besides the poor transfer, that the movie was shot on 100 ASA 5254, which would have made it difficult to light the large interior locations in Sweden and Italy.

Here are some frames from the DVD:

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

Unsworth has a knack for making group shots look like paintings in terms of framing, reminds me of some shots he did in "Cromwell" around the same time:

Posted Image

The flashbacks:

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image
  • 0

#2 James Steven Beverly

James Steven Beverly
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 4199 posts
  • Director
  • El Paso, Texas

Posted 15 December 2010 - 04:46 AM

Wow...I gotta see this, those grabs are stunning. I had never even heard of this picture before. On a side note, 10 HOUR MOVIE??!! How do you storyboard something like that? The shot list alone would look like a set of encyclopedias. :blink:

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 15 December 2010 - 04:48 AM.

  • 0

#3 Leo Anthony Vale

Leo Anthony Vale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2010 posts
  • Other
  • Pittsburgh PA

Posted 15 December 2010 - 11:28 PM

This is so embaressing.
There was something familiar about this movie, after some pondering I remembered it was shown at FILMEX in the70s.
Then I seemed to recall acouple of shots: a diffuse foggy interior with Christina surrounded by a multidude of candles, maybe part of the main titles or shortly after the M/T & an exterior, quite diffuse of Christina running through a field of yellow flowers at a cliff overlooking the sea. Actual shots?

FILMEX would have a'secret' movie. Buy your ticket, take your chances. 'The Abduction' was that year's secret movie.
Most viewers seemed to be expecting something else.
  • 0

#4 Adrian Sierkowski

Adrian Sierkowski
  • Sustaining Members
  • 7117 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, Ca

Posted 15 December 2010 - 11:53 PM

Love that back-lit sun on horse shot.
  • 0

#5 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19761 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 16 December 2010 - 12:29 AM

This is so embaressing.
There was something familiar about this movie, after some pondering I remembered it was shown at FILMEX in the70s.
Then I seemed to recall acouple of shots: a diffuse foggy interior with Christina surrounded by a multidude of candles, maybe part of the main titles or shortly after the M/T & an exterior, quite diffuse of Christina running through a field of yellow flowers at a cliff overlooking the sea. Actual shots?

FILMEX would have a'secret' movie. Buy your ticket, take your chances. 'The Abduction' was that year's secret movie.
Most viewers seemed to be expecting something else.


Yes, that's how the movie opens, a sea of candles, the camera moving through them to a crown, which Christina places on her successor's head, then she runs down a foggy corridor, out of a door, and into a field of tall grass (not flowers) with the sun shining through them, camera racing through the grass with her, until she reaches the sea, standing on a cliff with the castle in the background.

Actually the best thing about the movie is Nino Rota's score, though it repeats two themes over and over again.
  • 0

#6 Pat Murray

Pat Murray
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 129 posts
  • Other

Posted 17 December 2010 - 02:00 PM

Thank you for sharing, David.

I was going to say the first frame grab looked like a portrait which belonged in a National Gallery, but saw that you mentioned it later in your post.
  • 0

#7 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11941 posts
  • Other

Posted 17 December 2010 - 05:30 PM

All that diffusion makes me think of sfumato, as in Mona Lisa, which is clearly the intent.
  • 0


Wooden Camera

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Metropolis Post

Paralinx LLC

Rig Wheels Passport

CineLab

CineTape

Opal

Abel Cine

Willys Widgets

Technodolly

Aerial Filmworks

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Ritter Battery

FJS International, LLC

Visual Products

Tai Audio

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

rebotnix Technologies

Glidecam

The Slider

Rig Wheels Passport

Paralinx LLC

Visual Products

Technodolly

Wooden Camera

Tai Audio

Glidecam

rebotnix Technologies

Aerial Filmworks

The Slider

Abel Cine

CineTape

Opal

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

FJS International, LLC

CineLab

Ritter Battery

Metropolis Post

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Willys Widgets

Broadcast Solutions Inc