Broken down to its essentials, cinematography is the synthesis of photography and motion. The camera angles (close up, medium, wide, high, low, etc.) combine with lighting and camera movement to not only capture the on-screen action, but to also help tell the story. Information is conveyed through how a scene is lit. Information is conveyed through how the camera moves in the scene. Information can be found in an extreme close-up that doesn't really appear in a wide shot of the same scene…and that’s actually kind of weird, if you think about it.

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The opening shot of Quentin Tarantino’s 2015 western "The Hateful Eight": an closeup of a wooden Jesus on a cross.

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The closing shot of this sequence, after going wider and wider over the span of several minutes, shows the full cross with Jesus on it, and a stagecoach riding by. We are introduced to the main characters via the stagecoach, but lost in this angle is the drama in Jesus’s face.

The Reading

For this module you are going to read Chapter 05, which is all about techniques in cinematography (pgs. 104-132.), in The Art of Watching Films.

The Watching

The Revenant (2015)

Once you’ve completed the reading, you’ll watch Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 2015 epic The Revenant. On this surface, this film is about one man’s journey to avenge his son’s death. But it touches on deeper themes of colonialism, racism, masochism, and the bonds of family. The Revenant was nominated for Best Picture at the 2016 Academy Awards, and won Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, and Best Actor – Drama at the 2016 Golden Globes. But Emmanuel Lubezki, the film’s cinematographer, won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, so keep an eye out for the many continuous camera shots and beautiful lighting, and how they help tell the story.

Note: as always, the media for this can be found in the LEH 353 - Visual Storytelling library on Plex.

The Questions

Once you’ve completed the film, answer the questionnaire below: