Maybe something like a more violent Network, Nightcrawler is the latest in a great string of dark performances from Jake Gyllenhaal. It doesn’t hurt that his co-stars Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed are also great. Gyllenhaal looks hollow and gaunt. His dialogue cadence is unnervingly rapid and clean. He’s good.
This is a film that sets out to take down media – at least the local news – and there are screens everywhere in the film:
I really liked moments like this where Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom watches TV at home. Director Dan Gilroy and cinematographer Robert Elswit set up the shot to look like a little theater, complete with curtains. But it’s also nice to have detail in the daytime background through the window. The real world is so close and tangible here and feels huge when juxtaposed with that tiny screen set towards the bottom of the frame. It really emphasizes the shut-in nature of media obsessives:
We cut tighter to Bloom-
-and then closer to the screen-
-before getting even closer to Bloom and screen:
It’s textbook editing: get closer as tension builds. It’s also a nice way to shut out that outside world that was so intentionally overwhelming to start. I thought it was interesting that Gilroy didn’t choose to frame the CU of Bloom head-on. Rather it’s at a 3/4 profile angle. It almost feels like going head-on would’ve been too direct and on-the-nose, and that going slightly off-axis eases the transition a bit instead of making it a shock cut.
There’s odd comedy in Nightcrawler and that last image above is one. The victim’s left side is blurred out. But what’s it hiding? Just more blood that we already see clearly anyway.
The production design of Bloom’s room is spartan:
It’s not only the smallness of the space, but also the varying shades of blue that kind of draw us inward, and how clean all of the lines are in there.
There was a small moment in the film early-on that I’d love to ask the editor, John Gilroy, about. Bloom leaves an office after being rejected from a job:
Instead of just letting him leave that frame and moving onto the next scene there’s a cut to this shot, with the would-be-employer’s hand in the foreground and Bloom exiting in the background. It felt jumpy to me. I wonder what the advantage of the cut is. I couldn’t figure out what I’d lose by having only the second-to-last shot above being the one to end the scene.
The Double Life of Veronique
It’s been years since I’ve seen Kryzysztof Kieslowski’s 1991 masterpiece, one of the more gorgeous films ever made, and an obvious influence on, among others, Amelie.
The Double Life of Veronique is a softly green and red film:
It’s enigmatic and shares with Kieslowski’s other films an obsession with fate and the mystery of being alive. Irene Jacob plays Weronika and Veronique, a woman in Krakow and Paris who share some unspoken connection.
Some of Kieslowski’s technique reminds me of Bertolucci. His camera is free and verging on playful, as in this moment when Weronika clutches at her chest in the street and her POV spins out of control mimicking her own physical and emotional situation:
There are times when the color scheme is confusing, and likely intentionally so. Weronika stares out her window. The image has elements of the green-yellow that suffuses most of the film, but it’s dominated by reds and browns:
There’s a cut to a space that looks entirely different and, without the matching eyeline, it would indeed feel like a different space:
There’s no motivation for the changing color temperature. It separates the characters dramatically and adds to the mysterious feeling of separation that dominates every frame. It’s funny because sometimes the “real world” is tinted green. So does that mean that Weronika, when at the window, is not in the real world?
Later Veronique is on the phone with an unknown caller. Kieslowski cuts to a reddish image. It’s an image of Weronika. She appears to be on a screen – as though the camera was placed nearly 90 degrees to an old tube TV. Her image comes into focus and then slowly turns to orange (it feels in some ways like Bergman’s dips to red in Cries and Whispers, and the heat and operatic intensity from those scenes is also here):
When the caller hangs up, the sound accompanying that image of Weronikia – her singing and the underlying music – also cuts out.
So what was it? Some distant memory called back by an inexplicable link of two people? A voice from the grave? It’s really neither, and intentionally unclear as to whether the sound we hear on the phone is diegetic or non-diegetic. Veronique’s reaction could be to the disconnected line and to nothing else.
Kieslowski uses eerie wide-angle lenses for distended POVs-
-images that feel like the tunnel vision from a Wong Kar Wai film-
-and he loves to shoot through glass objects. This is, after all, a film about the strange connection between reality and fantasy, about how our world is not as it seems:
Throughout the film hovers – maybe a literal use of that word – the specter of death. Veronique looks up as if to smile at some unknown presence above her. There’s never a reaction shot revealing who or what she sees:
When Weronika collapses on-stage during a concert (shot in POV that ends staring at floorboards)-
-there’s a pause that’s nearly non-narrative. Instead of cutting right to everyone rushing the stage to offer help there’s this digression where the camera rapidly moves over the audience, as if away, and away from Weronika’s body:
It’s only once “she escapes” that the action is allowed to continue: