Adriano Goldman, ABC, the Brazilian cinematographer behind the images in Sin Nombre, City of Men, 360, and Jane Eyre, began his career in television, so he understands electronic imaging. “I’m not nostalgic,” he says. “But today, even the producers understand that while video cameras have improved, they are not better than film, and they are not cheaper and not faster.”
Goldman’s most recent project is Closed Circuit, which he photographed for director John Crowley (Intermission, Boy A, Is Anybody There?). The story, a thriller set in London’s legal world, follows a team of lawyers who are also ex-lovers. The duo is forced to work together on a terrorist’s legal defense, and soon find their lives threatened. The cast features Rebecca Hall, Eric Bana, Ciarán Hinds, Anne-Marie Duff and Jim Broadbent.
“John is a visual guy,” Goldman says of Crowley. “He enjoys the process. He comes from a theater background, but he loves the storytelling techniques that come with filmmaking. John loves film and the texture it brings.”
A contemporary film shot mostly on locations in London, Closed Circuit called for realism, with natural illumination. The production sought out interiors with large windows to facilitate lighting. One key differentiation highlighted by the cinematography is between the world of Claudia, played by Hall, and the world of Martin, played by Bana. Claudia lives in a trendy, light-filled London apartment that Goldman portrayed as bright and graphic. Martin, who is getting over a difficult divorce, lives in a smaller apartment that is darker and less inviting – even creepy, says Goldman.
The other settings were dark night exteriors in London, and grand courtrooms where the trial unfolds. For the night exteriors, Goldman imbued the images with film grain. “I tried to make it a little grittier and grainier sometimes,” he says. “You still feel the film texture.”
The format was 3-perf Super 35, for a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Goldman used the frame to accentuate the characters’ loneliness, and later in the story, it was conducive to elegant two-shots.
“This is a film about real places and real people – lawyers, judges and the government,” says Goldman. “I prefer to call our approach realistic, as opposed to naturalistic, because it takes a lot of work to make it look real. The light comes from the windows, but there is always a reflector outside mimicking daylight. At the same time, it’s an enhanced realism. That is the way I usually work. The design, location and wardrobe changes, of course, are specific to the project.”
Goldman eschewed extreme angles or wide angle lenses, opting instead for a “classic, elegant and sober” look. The grand courtroom locations lent an August air to the proceedings. The production was only allowed access to these working chambers on Sundays, and they faced strict limits on rigging.
“These interiors were very beautiful,” says Goldman. “You could feel the tradition. It was important to establish the weight of the law and how it affects these characters. It’s absolutely different from shooting on a soundstage. We bounced sources on white walls, and in one case, they allowed us to have one big HMI balloon light. I think the London legal world is really well shown in the film.”
The grip crew set up tracks for almost every dolly shot. That way, if Crowley decided to add some movement to a given shot, the work was already done. “I think that these subtle moves add a special touch to the movie,” says Goldman. “Once we get into the thriller part of the story, STEADICAM and handheld cameras played a more important role, adding motion, speed and tension. In the second half of the movie, there are quite a few sequences where we chose unique compositions and more exciting camera work.”
An ARRICAM LT was the main camera, with ZEISS Master Prime lenses, and two lightweight zooms. About 70% of the film was shot on KODAK VISION3 500T Color Negative Film 5219. On bright day exteriors, Goldman went with KODAK VISION3 200T Color Negative Film 5213.
“For some cloudy day exteriors, I used the 500T Film,” he says. “I honestly think it’s the best stock – I really like the grain, even when it is as fine as we get with the 19. I like the soft texture it gives me.”
Goldman shot with a half Soft/FX filter on 90% of the film. “It gives me a little extra softness that I actually like very much, especially on close-ups,” he says. “I can also put some sharpness back on the DI and I can still maintain the softness on the skin.
“I’m very happy with Rebecca’s close-ups in the film,” he says. “We want her to look beautiful, but not too much. I never wanted this to look like a commercial, ever. She is a real character, not a perfect female leading actor. I’m glad I found a way to make it look elegant and soft, and film was an important part of that. I don’t really trust the skin tones on most digital cameras.”
The digital intermediate was done at Technicolor Creative Services in London with colorist Paul Ensby – one of the best, according to Goldman. The decision to originate on 35mm film also paid dividends in post-production.
“The colorists I’ve been working with say that material originated on digital cameras feels like a thin negative,” says Goldman. “With film, you can dig deep to enrich the image. There’s a lot of latitude there, a lot of quality. We did the Closed Circuit grade in 80 hours, and we had plenty of time. We went through it four times. If I had shot on a digital format, I would have needed more time. The people at Technicolor gave us excellent service with no problems. They have seen everything, and they also think film is the better support for images.”
Closed Circuit is scheduled for an August release.