Visions of Light

Visions of Light is a documentary film that was shot in 1992. It is devoted to the art of cinematography, and it mentions the most prominent cinematographers and filmmakers of the 20th century. Also, it shows many great contributions each of them made to the development of the art of cinema. 

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            Although a great variety of outstanding cinematographers are mentioned in the film, the one I find the most interesting is Gregg Toland. He was called a gambler because he enjoyed experimenting and breaking rules. He had an eye for things and was a very creative person who was not afraid of trying anything new. The visual style of the films he photographed was unique and brilliant. In his movies, he used a lot of contrasts, peculiar lighting, and the deep focus technique, which was innovative at the time. He managed to create the feeling of deep space in the frame.

            Undoubtedly, one of the most brilliant films that Gregg Toland photographed was Citizen Kane (1941). It is also considered one of the best pictures in the whole history of cinematography because it was like a textbook for other cinematographers. In this movie, Gregg Toland and Orson Welles, the film director, experimented a lot and used a wide range of innovative techniques that had never been used before in cinematography.

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            The film that I would like to see most and that was mentioned in the documentary is Dog Day Afternoon (1975). It was directed by Sidney Lumet and photographed by Victor J. Kemper. This film is an example of the so-called New York style in cinematography. When they shot New York, they had to improvise a lot and use all available tools. Victor J. Kemper called the manner they shot films “dirty and greedy”.

Dog Day Afternoon is filled with energy. Every scene in the movie is vibrant. There is energy in the work of camera and its movement, and in the way the actors play their parts. When the filmmakers began shooting the film, they wanted to make it as true-to-life and real as possible, and the film should have a documentary look. What interested me most was their idea that the audience had to believe that they were watching not a story that had happened before and then was filmed. They wanted the audience to believe that the story they were watching was happening at the time. Judging by the episodes from the film I saw in the documentary, the filmmakers succeeded in doing so. I would definitely like to see the whole movie.

The film that I have seen before and that is mentioned in the documentary is Rosemary’s Baby (1986), directed by Roman Polanski and photographed by William A. Fraker. The director and the cinematographer worked in close collaboration, since Roman Polanski understood photography and had a feel for it. The movie can be called a breakaway from the Hollywood tradition, as Polanski is a European director. In the movie, he employed some techniques that were not typically used in Hollywood films.

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Honestly, I was quite disappointed at the way the movie was represented in the clip. Firstly, the representation was rather short and insufficient. Rosemary’s Baby is one of the most remarkable movies I have seen, and I still remember the terror I felt while I was watching it. It would be really great if the representation had focused on the cinematographic techniques the filmmakers used in the movie to create the atmosphere of fear and suspense.

Visions of Light is a documentary masterpiece that provided me with insight into the history of cinematography. After watching the movie, I have learnt about the evolution of cinematographic techniques on the examples of outstanding films shot during the 20th century.

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