One of the many pleasures of Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” (2011) is that the shots feel both tightly composed and weirdly unpredictable. Even though most of the images follow a simple quadrant system, Refn puts plenty of subtle touches within the frame. Let’s take a look.
As always, with any of these devices, they may not be as intentional in every instance as what is shown above. What's undoubtedly the case with this quadrant system is that it comes out of conversations between director Refn and director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel before they started shooting the film. When you set ground rules about how you want to shoot, even when you're not thinking about them, they tend to come out subconsciously — which means that you will know what feels right for every frame due to prior communication.
The main lesson is that these things are created in pre-production, and when artists are working at a very high level and in-sync together, you get beautiful examples like what you see above. If you make conscious decisions to do certain things before you start shooting, and you stick to those choices throughout the film, you'll often end up with something far more coherent and watchable.
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