Capturing the Bleak NY Winter for the Coens: Behind the Cinematography of 'Inside Llewyn Davis'
Of the many amazing films that were released in 2013, few looked as unique, or as stylistically gorgeous, as the Coens' love song to the 1960's NY folk scene, Inside Llewyn Davis. Of course, Roger Deakins, the regular cinematographer for the Coen brothers, was not available to shoot the film, so the prolific filmmaking duo turned to another industry legend, acclaimed French DP Bruno Delbonnel, who is most known for his stunning work on Amélie. The fine folks at Cinefii recently sat down with Delbonnel at the Cameraimage Festival in Poland, where he revealed many of the techniques that he used to create the unique aesthetic of Inside Llewyn Davis, as well as some insights into what it's like to work with Joel and Ethan Coen.
First, let's take a look at the trailer for Inside Llewyn Davis, which gives you just a hint of the aesthetic of the film:
And here's the Cinefii interview with Bruno Delbonnel:
There are a few interesting pieces from this interview that stand out to me. First and foremost is the type of relationship that Delbonnel forged with the Coens and how the duo works in order to create their films. Here's what Delbonnel said about the process:
I ask them sometimes what is the purpose of the scene and what it is conveying, we discuss it, but in very, very few sentences. They are very practical, they don’t go into psychological detail. It’s very very simple, it’s very very precise, so all emotion is coming from them and they are brilliant at that.
It's interesting to hear that the Coen brothers don't go into great depth about the emotional and psychological state of their characters with the DP, especially considering that the product that ultimately ends up on the screen is always chock-full of seemingly psychological cinematography. It's both a testament to their prowess as filmmakers and, of course, the prowess of the cinematographers they choose to shoot their films.
Delbonnel also talks about how he lit the film, and how he chose to emphasize the overwhelming sense of sadness that permeates the iconic Coen humor.
I wanted to have something through all the movie which was this kind of sadness, and that is when I decided that the light is always falling off. There is no light lighting on the walls or anything, it’s just like, the same light which is lighting the actor is lighting the set there is no complimentary light, the lighting is always falling off to darkness, as if the light barely reaches into the apartment.
Here are a few frames that really emphasize this technique of letting the light fall into blackness, and keeping the fill levels at a minimum:
The cinematography of Inside Llewyn Davis is absolutely fantastic, so if you haven't yet had a chance to see it yet, I can't recommend it highly enough. Also, make sure to check back on Cinefii's website for more of these fantastic interviews (or just wait for me to share them, because I invariably will).
What did you guys think of the cinematography of Inside Llewyn Davis? Leave your thoughts down in the comments!