Magazine article American Cinematographer

Finding A Regal Voice

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Finding A Regal Voice

Article excerpt

Danny Cohen, BSC Brings Immediacy to History in The King's Speech

When Bertie (Colin Firth), the second son of Britain's George V unexpectedly ascended to the throne of England in 1 936, his stammer became more than a speech impediment. It presented a major obstacle to his ability to execute his duties. As monarch, he would be expected to address his subjects via radio and provide a sense of confidence and authority, all the more so with the outbreak of World War II. The King's Speech, based on the true story, concerns the single-minded Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), secretly hired to cure the Royal impediment. The film, co-starring Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth (the future Queen Mother), Derek Jacobi and Guy Pearce was shot over seven weeks in and around London.

Cinematographer Danny Cohen, BSC, who had previously collaborated with director Tom Hooper on HBO miniseries John Adams and the biopic Longford says the director's brief was "to make it as natural and believable as possible. Tom's take on history is that film often tends to make [everythingj look chocolate box-y and sanitized. So if we were going to make film about real people and real events, the more veracity you could put on the screen the more believable it would become."

He and Hooper used two principal sources as references for the eventual look The King's Speech would take on. First, they pored over the stills of German émigré photographer Bill Brandt who, after moving to England in 1933, began documenting UK society in famous collections, like The English at Home (1936) and /4 Night in London (1 938).

"What we took mostly," says Cohen of this source, "was framing. I'm a big fan of wide lenses and Tom especially likes wide lenses very close to people's faces. We also looked at the BBC documentary, The Thirties In Color," he adds, referring to the four-part series, which drew from official archive and also private collection footage.

Cohen tested a number of stocks and decided that a combo of Vivid 160T and 500T would gel with the combination of sets, locations and costumes to yield the distinctive look the filmmakers were going for. "What I was especially blown away by," he recalls, "was how the Vivid 500T dealt with grain. With a period film, you can probably get away with a grainier look but the fact that it's pretty grainless is an added bonus. …

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