Cinematography is the art of photography and camerawork in film-making. It’s also been described as writing in light as a large section of cinematography involves contrast levels and colour.
I’m going to analyse the below frame from Guillermo Del Toro’s 2009 film Pacific Rim for the way it has used colours and focus/ frame depth effectively.
This frame is a good example of shallow focus. Shallow focus is when only one plane of the image is in focus. In this frame only Mako and the right of the frame is in perfect focus whilst Raleigh and the background is blurred.
Making Mako focus of scene establishes her as the main hero and tells the audience that it is her that is the character to focus on and is the one that will move the scene forwards.
The scene isn’t shot with Mako at the direct centre, she’s instead coming in from the right. I think this is a really interesting cinematographic choice as the very act of changing the focus of the scene from a deep shot to shallow focus on the right of the frame. By doing this the film reinforces to the audience that it is Mako that needs to be focused on and is taking action to move the plot forwards.
I also like how colour is used to emphasise Mako and draw attention to her expression and hand movement. Most of the background is shades of dark blue which means Raleigh blends into it easily and doesn’t draw the audience’s attention.
In contrast Mako’s face is surrounded by bright lights, whether the lights in her helmet, the ones on her arm or the blue from Raleigh’s arm and the light behind her. Every bright colour in the frame seems to of been designed around Mako.
Bordwell and Thompson’s Film Art (2008) describe how in colour usage patches of colour or trigger ideas and emotional responses. I think this can be seen in this still as the yellow highlights and bright blue aspects create an atmosphere of hope and make the audience realise something positive is about to happen. The bright lights in this scene are emerging from a dark background which fits with the films idea of emerging more hopeful from hard situations.
This film has really interesting cinematography and it particularly focuses on positive moments and ideas of hope in its shots using colours or framing on faces. Unlike similar films released in the past few years Pacific Rim is happy and colourful, I think this is what make it stand out so much for me.
Bordwell, D. and Thompson, K. (2008). Film art- An Introduction. 8th ed. Boston: McGraw Hill.
Pacific Rim (2013) [Film] Directed by GUILLERMO DEL TORO. USA: Warner Bros.