Please, please don’t use the line “no animals were harmed during the making of this film”. It screams amateurism. It’s almost as bad as putting “The End” at the conclusion of your film. These clichés must vanish from existence!
I’m a big fan of this movie. Saw it for the second time last night. Two scenes in particular are now, at least temporarily, a couple of my favorite moments in cinema.
However, the production of this film is weird. Really weird. It’s shot on digital video, and often it looks exactly like a 30fps PAL television broadcast, e.g. a BBC miniseries. Sometimes it has the effect of giving the movie a very real/present feel, as if someone was dropped into 1934 with a video camera. Other times it makes you feel like you’re watching a movie about grownups playing make believe with guns. Sometimes you can will yourself to switch from one mindset to the other, like an optical illusion.
The sound is reeeeeal crap. In some scenes it sounds like it was shot single-camera with a mounted shotgun, and then the pans were edited out, so you get these jarring background noise jumps with every cut. In other scenes the dubbing and background sounds are so unnatural it’s simultaneously hard to believe it’s accidental and hard to believe it’s not.
Instead of shooting day for night or just using natural lighting for the night scenes, Mann and his cinematographer Dante Spinotti (great name) used big fluorescent floodlights to imitate the brightest moonlight to have ever struck the Earth. Depp and Bale are out in the middle of nowhere and a super-white light is illuminating everything perfectly. I noticed it the first time, and hadn’t found a way to rationalize it by my second viewing, during which I heard the guy next to me whisper to his friend, “Where’s that light coming from?”
I still like the movie so much that I keep trying to convince myself that all of these things are purposeful, but I don’t know how they could be. It’s almost like it’s a genre picture twice: first a B miniseries, second a gangster film.
Mr. Apple really nails it here. I also noticed a significant lack of consistent production value in the film. I didn’t realize that it was shot digitally. That would explain the blatant higher frame rate soap-opera look in some of the scenes. Actually, some of the cinematography itself seemed unsuitable for the film. If I recall, most if not all the camerawork was hand held and shaky which I felt distracted from what could have been an otherwise immersive experience. I confirmed with a friend that the dialogue levels were all over the place and not just a spotty reel.
It’s interesting how they could have let all these things slip. It’s certainly an intriguing idea that some of these techniques, commonly used for documentary-style work, might have been used intentionally to present an old story in a real-world way.