Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Hackers Now Reportedly Say Sony Can Release 'The Interview,' But With Changes Hackers Now Reportedly Say Sony Can Release 'The Interview,' But With Changes George Clooney Pushes For VOD Release Of 'The Interview,' Calls Out Hollywood For Lack Of Courage George Clooney Pushes For VOD Release Of 'The Interview,' Calls Out Hollywood For Lack Of Courage Watch: Sony Releases "In Franco And Rogen We Trust" Promo For 'The Interview' Watch: Sony Releases "In Franco And Rogen We Trust" Promo For 'The Interview' Watch: The Style Of Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Terrence Malick & More Recreated With Stock Footage Watch: The Style Of Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Terrence Malick & More Recreated With Stock Footage Surprising Full Cast Revealed For Jason Reitman's Live Read Of 'Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back' Surprising Full Cast Revealed For Jason Reitman's Live Read Of 'Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back' Sony Officially Yanks 'The Interview' From Release Following Hacker Threats Sony Officially Yanks 'The Interview' From Release Following Hacker Threats The 21 Best Performances Of 2014 The 21 Best Performances Of 2014 The 12 Best Shots Of 2014 The 12 Best Shots Of 2014 Baffling First Official Synopsis For Terrence Malick's 'Knight Of Cups' Unveiled Baffling First Official Synopsis For Terrence Malick's 'Knight Of Cups' Unveiled Rumor: 'Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Will Address Fan Complaints From 'Man Of Steel' Rumor: 'Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Will Address Fan Complaints From 'Man Of Steel' Watch: Christian Bale Goes On A Hedonistic Journey In First Trailer For Terrence Malick's 'Knight Of Cups' Watch: Christian Bale Goes On A Hedonistic Journey In First Trailer For Terrence Malick's 'Knight Of Cups' The 20 Best Movie Posters Of 2014 The 20 Best Movie Posters Of 2014 Recap: 'The Newsroom' Series Finale, Season 3, Episode 6 'What Kind Of Day Has It Been' Recap: 'The Newsroom' Series Finale, Season 3, Episode 6 'What Kind Of Day Has It Been' More Leaks Reveal Reported Plans Around ‘Star Wars’ Episodes 8 & 9 More Leaks Reveal Reported Plans Around ‘Star Wars’ Episodes 8 & 9 Sony Leaks Reveal ‘Aquaman’ Director, ‘X-Men’/’Fantastic Four’ Crossover Plans & More Sony Leaks Reveal ‘Aquaman’ Director, ‘X-Men’/’Fantastic Four’ Crossover Plans & More Review: Assassination Comedy ‘The Interview’ Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, And Lizzy Caplan Review: Assassination Comedy ‘The Interview’ Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, And Lizzy Caplan The 20 Best Films Of 2014 The 20 Best Films Of 2014 Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' Watch: 3 Graphic, Very NSFW Clips From Lars von Trier's 'Nymphomaniac Vol II — Director's Cut' The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

The Essentials: 5 Amazing Joe Wright Scenes You Need To Know

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist November 15, 2012 at 1:14PM

In just five movies, British director Joe Wright has established himself as a master stylist with an almost painterly eye for shot compositions and spatial geography. On the eve of his newest film, "Anna Karenina," we thought we would go through the five most amazing shots in his oeuvre (whittling them down was something of a challenge). As an added bonus, we got to talk to Seamus McGarvey, the cinematographer behind behind three of the five scenes, including the one from "Anna Karenina," about what it was like crafting these truly unforgettable moments. We've included the scenes where possible, but of course, you can check out each of these films on home video.
6

Atonement Dunkirk
Atonement – The Dunkirk Evacuation   
If there's a single shot Joe Wright is known for, it's a four-minute tracking shot in the middle of his adaptation of Ian McEwan's literary juggernaut "Atonement" that takes place during World War II's evacuation of Dunkirk. It follows lovelorn soldier James McAvoy as he walks along the war-ravaged beach, cranes up to see a cluster of soldiers singing a patriotic hymn, and surveys the damage, before reconnecting with McAvoy. It's one of those shots that you can't help but be dazzled by (even people unaware of filmmaking technicality were blown away by it), a truly indelible moment in a movie filled with them.

All of this makes it such a surprise to know that it wasn't originally supposed to be a single shot. According to McGarvey: "Initially, it wasn't one shot. On the page, it was read as a number of scenes that occurred. We were going to shoot it as such." It was, like "Anna Karenina," a matter of both practicality and artistry that necessitated the single shot. "But then we looked at the location and firstly, we were on a beach. And a beach is only traversable for three hours on the day. So it meant that it was the only day we could shoot, three hours. And once we scouted the location we realized that the afternoon was the best for light because otherwise it was very flat-lit and horrible-looking. So once we established time for the shoot and optimized the time of day when the tide was out, we realized it had to be one shot."

What's also surprising to hear is that McGarvey didn't really want to do it as one continuous shot. "I was wary of it. I really didn't want to do it in one shot. At that point in the film I thought that it would be too totemic, it would overwhelm the subtleties of the rest of the film," McGarvey said. Once again, though, he was swayed by Wright's unrelenting vision for the sequence. "Joe, very wisely, argued, that the swirling nature of the camera would be the perfect expression of Robbie's hallucinatory state." There was other reasoning, too. "He also had this notion that the camera would shift between an objective and subjective point of view, so you could toy with those two modes in the one shot. And we realized that it would be a challenge but the right way to tell that part of the story."

The actual nuts-and-bolts of shooting it, McGarvey admitted, was "terrifying." And even though they made "a scale model of the beach and worked out the trajectory," with Joe Wright individually addressing the thousand extras (most of them from the town where they were shooting), it wasn't smooth sailing. (McGarvey is quick to point out the enormous contribution of Steadicam operator Peter Robertson, who also did the aforementioned overture sequence in "Anna Karenina," "who jumped on and off of milk carts, he was on a rickshaw, he was climbing up stuff.") After a lousy first take, and an okay second take, they finally hit their sweet spot with the third take.

"The light was extraordinary with this amazing cloud that was blocking the sun and there was just an emotion there," McGarvey said. Although there was a fairly sizable stumbling block. "In the middle of the take the microwave link back to the video village gave up so Joe had no idea if he got the shot or not. I knew. But Joe had no way of seeing it. And Joe said to do one more take," McGarvey explained. Then he added: "Talk about a sphincter-tightening moment." Wright made him do another take for safety, although that fourth take was more or less a disaster, underlit and plagued by technical errors. "It was terrifying to wait until the next day until we had the shot. I remember watching it and thinking, 'My that's something.' "

"Anna Karenina" opens in theaters tomorrow. "The Soloist," "Pride & Prejudice," "Atonement," and "Hanna" are all available on home video.

 
 
 
 

This article is related to: Anna Karenina, Joe Wright, Features, Feature


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates