There are many aspiring cinematographers all over the world and one of the best ways for them to get inspiration is by watching as many films as possible. However, some films have unique and stylish cinematography that makes them a must see for any wannabe cinematographer. They can teach you a lot about the different types of cinematography and you can learn so much from watching a variety of films. The films listed below all boast some wonderful shots and will no doubt get your creative juices flowing.
1. 'Under The Skin' (Daniel Landin)
This critically acclaimed fantasy/science fiction film was extremely complex and imaginative in the way it was filmed. Shot by Daniel Landin, he took the film to a unique place. Some scenes in the film were shot without people's knowledge.
"We were going into environments that one couldn’t alter, with people who didn’t know they were being filmed, but photographing them in a way that was cinematic" — Daniel Landin
For example, the nightclub scene involved regular people going on a regular night out; the crew didn't want to make themselves known. This is a cool technique because it can give the scene a realistic effect — even more so than if everyone in that nightclub were just extras.
Instead of using artificial lighting for every scene they tried to use what was already there to give it that realistic affect. As Scarlett Johansson was playing an alien, she needed to be captured in a certain way. To achieve that alien quality about her, Landin gave her her own space in shots to see how she looked in her surroundings and to see how she reacted to them.
2. 'Birdman' (Emmanuel Lubezki)
#Birdman is a film that many aspiring cinematographers will fall in love with because it was made to seem like it was all shot in one continuous take. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki achieved this look by taking lots of long takes and combining them together. The transitions between these takes was as minimal and seamless as possible so that people wouldn't notice them. Not only did it win an Oscar for best picture but it also won Best Cinematography.
Check out the cinematography in the clip below:
This sensational trick would have taken lots of practice from the crew in order to pull it off. A lot of the takes were 10 minutes long, with the longest take of the whole shoot lasting 15 minutes. It's an inspirational watch.
3. 'Amélie' (Bruno Delbonnel)
Shot by Bruno Delbonnel, this film is considered to have some of the best cinematography, ever. It is in a different language but that shouldn't put you off because this film really is a treat. Check out this clip below that showcases some of the cinematography:
As you can see, Delbonnel used a variety of camera speeds to capture some of these shots and it feels really modern. This film is a strong evocative piece and you can't help but be drawn into some of the shots. It has a distinctive visual style that is unforgettable.
These pictures show some of the stunning cinematography in the film:
4. 'Only God Forgives' (Larry Smith)
Larry Smith is the man behind this incredible film. It's visually pleasing and different from a lot of films because of Smith's use of colored gels. It's a film about violence and darkness, which is why he set up a lot of shots with a dark setting and uses the color red over and over again, giving the film a vibrant tint. The pictures below show the variety of colors used:
The contrast between red and blue is prominent throughout the film. It's a cold and violent film and these colors represent the harsh reality of it. They also heighten a fairytale feel to it, which further adds to the film's more horrific scenes.
It's not just the tones and colors of the film that are inspiring — many of the shots were expertly framed and the 360 degree camera technique was used a lot. Check out this scene below — the way the camera captures the images, creates an intense feel and utilizes the red lighting (foreshadowing that it's going to be a bloody fight).
The camera movements allow us to get a good look at each of the characters and to size them up, giving us an idea of who we think can win the fight. Smith takes his time so that the tension builds, creating anticipation and edge-of-your-seat drama.
5. 'Her' (Hoyte Van Hoytema)
In order to to tell the story of a man falling in love with his operating system, cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema decided to film close to his subjects. He, like Larry Smith in Only God Forgives, used the colors blue and red to represent the state of the character's emotions. By filming close to his subject, he creates an intensity and a sense of intimacy that thematically fits in a film about love.
There are certain rules when it comes to filmmaking and if you're wanting to be a cinematographer, the 180 degree rule is something you need to acknowledge. The 180 degree rule means that you're not allowed to cross the invisible line where the camera isn't allowed to cross: All action should be filmed on one side.
However, in some circumstances, cinematographers break this rule, and that is what Hoytema did in Her. He did this to show the operating system change from being just a piece of technology to being a love interest.
Check out some of the shots in the trailer below:
Films with remarkable cinematography like these are always a treat for aspiring cinematographers because they show just how obscure and exciting being a camera man or woman can be. They're films that you can tell the cinematographer has put all their efforts into every single shot. It's admirable.
There are so many elements to working behind a camera, and these films prove that it is a very creative and imaginative world to be immersed in. These five films should definitely be added to your watch list if you're wanting to get into cinematography.
Are there any other films that you think have an inspirational cinematography style? If so, let me know with a comment!