Let there be Light and Kubrick

May 7, 2014

By the Light of the Moon

 

I've been shooting the scenes that I am acting in. I had to get my hair cut to what my character's hair is supposed to be like first but as soon as I had cut the hair I was ready to shoot several silent shots, close-ups mostly. Shots that will connect to other shots either through close up cut-ins on details or my face close up. I didn't want to figure out lighting up a wide shot of the room yet. What I did find is that I love using LED flashlights as little spot lights and figuring out how to light the shots without the "key light". I've been studying lighting from movie scenes that take place at night and one of the things that seemed to be in each shot is to have the strongest light be behind the actor and letting it spill over a shoulder and light up the back of the neck. If its a blue light it tends to look like moonlight. Then there should be just enough light in front of or on a side of the actor's face so that we can see eyes and mouths.

 

 

Pools Of Light

 

I've pretty much decided on the lighting approach and it involves a red light that sort of fills the room, a small desk lamp that mixes a little normal colored light into the red. With these light alone one can see the room and the actor but the scene is fairly dark. Then I set up three or four LED (blue color temperatures) flashlights fastened onto tripods or stands and I use the spot lights from these to bring out details that are important to me in the face, the hands, on the wall. I placed one of those push-on/off circle lamps onto the wall to create an imaginary light source. Shooting into a light source is one of the things I would like to do with this project. It is something I have always liked about the films of Kubrick or Fellini.

 

 

Mixing Light

 

I captured a shot where the camera is focused on the side of the room where in the middle of the shot is a stand with a record player and to the left is the door of the closet donned with rock posters and on the right is a door that is open and bringing in light from the hallway. Its a fairly symmetrical shot and it made me think of Stanley Kubrick, something about shooting a room with a wide-angle lens and in a symmetrical composition. The lighting too. The light of these blue LED flashlights and the red bulb in a clamp-light mixing on the white surfaces turning purple, starts to make me think of Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, which is great because that is absolutely down the lines of my character's life and likes. The people I hung out with in my late teen years and early twenties loved Kubrick and especially 2001 and A Clockwork Orange.

 

 

 

A Clockwork Orange

 

A Clockwork Orange was just one of those films that was scary to watch because it was hard to tell where Kubrick's thinking was taking you and the visuals were so disturbing and disorienting that you needed to hold on to something but all Kubrick offers is something bleak and cold but a reality. It was cold and in-the-gut and felt weird and naked.

 

 

I was around twenty when I first saw A Clockwork Orange. It was at the Varsity Theatre in Palo Alto. I think the first image is red. The whole screen is just red. It's like an art film and then the titles pop on and off mercilessly. The music is very otherly. Walter Carlos and his electronic orchestra. The opening music is a funeral march done up in electronic sound. The whole aesthetic of that film! The look and feel of the rooms and the light and the colors and decor! Once again, as I felt with 2001, a work that reflects genius. That such an artist would face these things in the story, basic fundamental beliefs about what a human is and how they should be treated. There is a nonchalance that is icy yet the quirkiness of the filmmaking and the sets, and acting with scenes of violence so well choreographed and set to classical music. Clearly, reflected on the screen was this guy Kubrick (the chess player) and his ability to think and play.

 

For young adults growing up in the safety of the suburbs, A Clockwork Orange provided a great escape by showing us an alternative world. For people involved in the punk world, A Clockwork Orange fit right in. It reflected things that were very punk - "ultra-violence" (at least that strong energy), there was that gang feeling, punks hung out with each other and found like-minded thinkers who absorbed a similar sub-culture. While I wasn't directly involved in punk, I was well into appreciating Stanley Kubrick because he was a big fixture in my family's life with his film 2001: A Space Odyssey. My older brother Dan was the biggest fan back when it came out in 1968 and still is to today. We've probably spent about a thousand hours talking about that film and all the threads of ideas it talks about, including film form.

 

 

Homage to 2001

 

There are several things I've been allowing to be homages to 2001. There are a lot of red circles that are centered in the screen and my brother had told me that it makes him think of the HAL computer - a major character in 2001 with its all-seeing red eye that is in every room, fixed in the walls of the space ship. I decided to have the computer design based on circles and ovals and the white curvature that makes one think of eggs. This is part of the aesthetic of 2001. The computer controller, "mouse" in the video is egg shaped but with black buttons. This black on white is about part of the 2001 production design. The is something Kubrick does when he shows the Discovery ship that is heading to Jupiter. He shows the ship from a side, back angle and then follows that with a shot of the side of the ship very oblique, not in an angle (more of like a schematic diagram) and then pops on an angle from the front of the ship. I thought I would do the same for the shots that introduce the computer projector, set in the wall, in the middle of the image of a large eye that is painted on a poster.

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