Film Theory: Cinematography–Role, Theory, Practice

“Every picture defines its own look, and that definition begins with the director’s intention”–Sven Nykvist (The Virgin Spring, 1959)

“There is no such thing as complete freedom for a cinematographer. You have to do the director’s film. There’s no such thing as a cinematographer’s film”–Vilmos Zsigmond, 1996

Black and White vs. Color

Though shooting in color has been the norm, some major films have relied on black and white cinematography due to their subject matter or the contexts of their stories:

The Apartment, Billy Wilder, 1960

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Mike Nichols, 1966

In Cold Blood, Richard Brooks, 1967

The Last Picture Show, Peter Bogdanovich, 1971

Paper Moon, Peter Bogdanovich, 1973

Raging Bull, Scorsese, 1980

Elephant Man, the, David Lynch, 1980

Schindler’s List, Spielberg, 1993 (the last b/w film to have won the Best Picture Oscar).

Landmark Films

The Conformist (1970)

Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s work on Bertolucci’s 1970 masterpiece, The Conformist, is admired by many due to the fact that the visual style and tonal qualities (shades of yellow and brown) were matched to the film’s major themes of moral decadence.