LIGHTING DIAGRAM #18 – PRESUMED INNOCENT

Call sheet from the last day of shooting…

          In the final installment of the Presumed Innocent lighting diagram series: Harrison Ford and Bonnie Bedelia: husband and wife share a tough moment – the climax of the film, actually.  (find it at 01:54:50)

            Everything here is heavily supported by Willis’ lighting…or lack thereof.  It’s amazing how much he was able to accomplish by doing so little.  And while that might seem easy to achieve, believe me, it is not!

            The “B” that’s mentioned at the bottom of my notes refers to the grade of Mitchell Glass Diffusion filter that was used only for Bonnie Bedelia’s close up.  Compare her lighting to Harrison Ford’s…there’s quite a difference in texture.

            Also, note the 4’x6′ hard panels that were used to create an enclosure of 85 filtration at the top of the steps.  Willis ordered a “box” of color correction to be constructed there so as to allow continuous lighting to the 3200 degrees Kelvin standard throughout the basement.  This freed him to use smaller, less intrusive tungsten units as opposed to the limited selection of large HMIs, along with their unwieldy ballasts.

            Taken as a whole, Presumed Innocent is a wonder of restraint and self-containment.  Its essence is a narrow personal story, a turbulent slice-of-life in which the photography underscores each step of the narrative with exquisite taste.  It’s not the type of thing we see much of anymore and that’s a shame.  I hope the diagrams have brought a deeper understanding of Gordon Willis’ genius, if only on a mechanical level.  And if you haven’t seen the movie in awhile or are yet to see it at all, set aside some time and keep in mind the points I’ve made thusfar.  It’s a treasure trove of cinematographic lessons.  After all, as the old sage was fond of saying, “For every disciplined effort, there are multiple rewards!”

11.27.2020

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