Tag Archives: cinematography

cinema of the Dutch Golden Age

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[Jan Vermeer Girl with a Pearl Earring,  WIKIMEDIA COMMONS]

I’m writing a chapter on realism and Golden Age Dutch art, and the films Girl with a Pearl Earring (Peter Webber), Nightwatching (Peter Greenaway) and Admiral (Roel Reiné). All 3 films are interesting represntations of the Dutch “Golden Age”, yet are totally different in subject and style. I recommend all of them! Girl with a Pearl Earring is about Jan Vermeer making the famous painting (above); Nightwatching is about Rembrandt making the eponymous painting and the consequences of that, and Admiral is about the life of Dutch admiral Michiel de Ruyter.

To my mind, the main thrust of Girl with a Pearl Earring is to achive heightened realism by the total recreation of 17thC Delft life; Nightwatching‘s thrust is to explore Rembrandt’s painterly techniques transposed onto film; Admiral uses tropes of Dutch painting (from Vermeer to van der Velde) to cement the story’s time and place, give it gravitas and affirm its significance. It’s interesting to see how each film does this and how the paintings they refer to resonate in different ways. Also the totality of Dutch painting as a precursor to cinema is always present in the back of the mind of any who sees these works.

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Vilmos Zsigmond and Haskell Wexler, Masters of Light

It’s sad that my first post of the year is a reflection on the passing of two of the most important artists of their generation: the cinematographers Haskell Wexler who  passed on December 27, 2015 and Vilmos Zsigmond who passed on New Year’s Day.

The annals of art history will not mention these men , because cinematography is not considered an art form, and even cinema is omitted from due consideration of 20th century art. However if you look at their work, it soon becomes obvious that their mastery of storytelling through light shade and tone is as powerful as anything mastered by Rubens or Vermeer.

I was at Camerimage (in Łódź, Poland) in 2008 when Vilmos Zsigmond was an honoured guest, attending the screening of the fine film No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos (2008) by James Chressanthis. The film tells the story of  Zsigmond and his friend Laszlo Kovacs, the two Hungarian film students who fled the  1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, ending up in the USA where they began their careers and changed film history. Their contribution of the look of cinema is immeasurable.

I had the honour to briefly meet Vilmos Zsigmond at the festival and I can say that he was absolutely lovely.

Film’s achievement is normally credited to the director, but it is a mistake to disregard the camera, since it  is the camera alone which makes it a movie. How the camera reveals the image is key to what creates a powerful and memorable film moment.

bruisecoloured sky

‘bruise coloured sky’ Łódź, Poland   digital photograph, ©Gillian McIver2008

 

 

 

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