I geek out about movies a lot here. But I’ve noticed that the stuff that is most salient for me as a budding comic book artist – the cinematography and related visual aspects, tend to get a sentence or paragraph at most; perhaps because I’m not that great at describing these things without just gesturing towards the image itself.
Let’s try to remedy that with one of my all-time favourite movies, David Lynch’s Inland Empire. Not that I have any particular competence in talking about photography,but whatever.
Aside from owning it in a format where I can easily take screenshots, it has the “advantage” of being shot on a crappy handheld Sony digital camera. So it has a very, uh, unique aesthetic that makes deliberate use of the camera’s difficulty of focusing on more than one object at a time, and the weird smeary textures you get to help create the movie’s dreamlike ambience. It’s a visually striking movie, but not the “man, this frame could have been a painting” sort, so I at least avoid defaulting to that description.
There isn’t even a director of photography – just a handful of camera operators.
So here’s a very famous Lynchian staple: sinister, red curtains. But this is also a movie where a lot of scenes are completely dominated by a single colour, which often just kinda bleeds everywhere. Laura Dern here is almost completely invisible – she seems to almost become a part of the curtain as she walks towards the red light. The hand in the foreground is making a sort of exaggerated abracadabra motion which would be goofy in almost any other context, but here comes across as rather unsettling.
Superimposing a transparent image onto another one is a kinda cheap and easy way of making something appear otherworldly, but it works here because it’s so artificial.
Another image of a barely-visible Laura Dern. One of the major features of Inland Empire is how it makes the interiors of regular, run-down buildings into these architecturally abstract labyrinths, which this shot does a good job of suggesting.
People sitting around a table in chiaroscuro lighting isn’t anything new. But look at how those candles are flaring up! The low-fi quality of the camera makes light sources get weird like that, which makes a relatively down-to-earth scene like this feel somewhat unreal.
Just closing out with another striking shot of one of the rabbits. It’s super late and I’m getting tired.