Magazine article American Cinematographer

Dancing in the Dark

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Dancing in the Dark

Article excerpt

Matthew Libatique, ASC Shoots 16mm Vivid for Black Swan

Matthew Libatique, ASC first collaborated with director Darren Aronoisky on the breakout indie Pi (1998). Shot in 16mm on a shoestring budget, that dark portrait of obsession and mysticism helped launch both of their careers and the powerful, visually striking Requiem fora Dream (2000) and The Fountain (2006) followed, helping establish both men as true film artists. Now, the two re-team for Black Swan, a deliberately unsettling look at intrigue and mental disintegration in the high-pressure world of classical ballet. Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel, the film captures the life of a talented but damaged performer from her possibly distorted point of view. Everything about the project, from the story to the way it unfolds visually, was intriguing to Libatique, as was the opportunity to work again with Aronofsky. "We share a similar aesthetic," says the cinematographer of the director. "He pushes me more than anybody else I've ever worked with."

In some ways, Black Swan shares some similarities with their first film together. Though it contains quite a lot of subtle, invisible visual effects, the overall feel was designed to seem naturalistic, devoid of a "lit" look, which was very different from their work on The Fountain, which Libatique describes as "very manicured and precise." Here, he says, "1 wanted to maintain the feel that the situation was entirely done with available lighting, whether it be the stage lights during performances or just practicals everywhere else. I might augment the practicals with additional lighting. It wasn't really 'available light,' but I wanted the look to suggest maybe there wasn't quite enough light to really shoot where we were shooting."

Black Swan was produced on a relatively small budget and the filmmakers decided to shoot in 16mm (Super 16 cropped to a 2.35:1 aspect ratio) for both aesthetic and practical reasons. Libatique says he was relieved that nobody on the project tried to get him to shoot digitally. "Film has certain look," he observes. "It was definitely appropriate for the look Darren and I were after. The working method is also different from digital cinematography." The small cameras allowed the cinematographer to shoot the almost-entirely-handheld feature quickly and get in tight spaces without worrying about waiting for the camera to turn on or being tethered to a digital imaging technician's station. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.