Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Thinking about cinematography

I haven't really paid much attention to cinematography while watching movies, except for those ones like Winged Migration when it's really the subject of the film.

So it's been interesting to at least think about the cinematography as I watched an episode of Montalbano, which is an Italian detective series set in a beautiful town in Sicily.  We were introduced to this series at last winter's Italian class and we were immediately taken by the feeling of Italy it communicates.

The camera work is really beautiful, pulling back to show gorgeous scenes of calm blue water with a distant swimmer (Detective Montalbano) gradually approaching the beach and then wading out of the water.  Many episodes start with this type of scene and also include a lot of footage of Montalbano in his simple but gorgeous beachside apartment.

There are also many scenes of the town and the windswept coastline of Sicily.  I watched part of one episode without the subtitles and it was quite surprising how much of the story I was able to understand.   The camera does a good job of telling the story by following Montalbano through his days.  He appears in almost every scene and the camera focuses a lot on his face and the faces of other characters.  The camera also reveals the relationships between Montelbano and his group of detectives, and his superiors.   

The camera work is slow and deliberate.  There is a contrast between dark saturated colours for the interiors and quite high key, almost blown out exposures outdoors. And always there is the counterpoint of the beautiful turquoise ocean.  It's a gorgeously filmed series--and the stories are quite complex and psychologically interesting as well.  

I wasn't able to figure out how to take screen shots from the series, which can be viewed online here (although they are in Italian).  But I've illustrated this with two photos for the Pacific, one taken in California and one in Mazatlan.  Both of these have a similar feeling to the beach that figures so strongly in the Montelbano series.