We've talked a lot about where Deakins gets his visual inspiration and what his favorite films are.
It turns out that one of his favorites is Come and See, Elem Klimov's stunning World War II epic and one of the most famous anti-war films ever made. If you haven't seen it, it's a brutal watch with visuals unique to Soviet-era filmmaking.
In the below video from Cinematographers on cinematography, Deakins speaks about the film's cinematography and what he learned from it. Watch below.
This is a great peek into Deakins' love of film and admiration for the cinematography of Aleksei Rodionov. It's a dark movie, but as Deakins points out, dark things can be beautiful.
"Some people say Come and See is ugly," Deakins says. "But it's brilliantly photographed. You wouldn't say it's badly lit. You wouldn't say it's badly composed. But what is 'bad,' and what is 'good'? It feels right for the film. It feels real. And it uses different techniques at different moments for different aesthetic reasons and trying to say something different with the way the camera's moving."
Your cinematography can be different, disturbing, or dark—as long as it suits the story you're trying to tell.
He appreciates the beauty in the film's compositions, but points out that they don't distract from the plot. Remember not to get caught up in creating beautiful but pointless shots. They should "connect you somehow," as Deakins says, to the film's theme and plot.
Deakins also points out the film's brilliant use of split diopter shots. When done correctly, they can be really stunning.
Deakins suggests you should know your tools. He talks about the use of Steadicam and handheld at key points in Come and See, and how they feel "lyrical" and "perfect" but not overused. There's a tracking shot that follows the film's protagonist into his family home but locks off as he explores the empty room, almost suggesting how alone the character really is now. The camera could have easily continued following the character, but it doesn't—the tool isn't overused.
This is a great video for getting a glimpse of what goes on in Deakins' mind as he watches a masterpiece and how he analyzes work as a cinematographer.
Did you learn anything new from this talk? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.