Vagrant Journalism

Published pieces from the past, the present and of the potential future.

3 October 2008: Film Notes – Angel-A

Posted by Christina on March 23, 2009

angel-aFor the last of the three-part film history series, we went through modern filmmaking in a flash of a variety of genres, country-specific filmmaking and form spanning from Andy Warhol to video art. We had to sign up for “film notes” and in groups, write about a certain aspect of a particular film. Whether it be cinematography, editing, acting…whatever. I loved this film so much and was excited to participate in film notes for this Luc Besson masterpiece.

Film Notes: cinematography – camera movement, angles and lighting

Angel-A, Luc Besson, 2005

The use of various cinematographic techniques in Angel-A are very specific to the genre of filmmaking this particular film falls into, Cinéma du look. The camera movement throughout the environment of the Paris setting gets as much out of the city’s architectural beauty as possible. In order to accomplish this, the camera takes extreme long shots of the characters as they make their way throughout the city. Even when both Angel-A and André are static and are having intimate conversations, many of these moments are captured in establishing shot fashion. The camera sits far, far away and centers the two characters as small, arm flailing and gesticulating creatures in the middle of the frame. It is convenient, and probably purposefully done, that many of the events take place on the cobblestone, Parisian streets and amongst a mélange of key areas of French culture. From the train station to Sacré-Cœur to the ever-present Eiffel Tower, the film could pass as a tour video if not intended for greater and better things.

Another key area of cinematography employed by this Cinéma du look film is in the mode of camera angles, which is important because of the height difference between Angel-A and André. It may be somewhat ridiculous that Angel-A is so much taller than André but the camera angles that follow their interaction serve to establish a relationship for the two. In their first meeting and discussion, we have a high angle from Angel-A’s perspective as she’s talking to André and a low angle from André’s perspective when he’s talking to Angel-A. This establishes a hierarchical leveling between the two and is seen in how Angel-A is more capable of taking care of André’s problem than he is capable of taking care of them himself. When Angel-A forces André to admit that he loves himself in the mirror, the camera is dead steady on both of them, showing that she has come down to his level to assess him problem.

Lighting is also key here since the film is shot in black and white. When colors are limited to whites, blacks and inevitable grays, lighting contrasts are more readily seen. Angel-A is done entirely in black and white and with this, contrasts of color play on the ideas of theme and character development throughout the film. While it is shot in black and white, the colors are still deep blacks and deep whites, entirely saturated and prominent. Angel-A’s dress is dark black and her hair is bright white, for example, which exemplifies the idea that there is some sort of dichotomy in her very being. This also goes for the beauty of each frame as the entire movie’s film stock could serve as individual still images because of how intense the black and white create contrast throughout the entire film.

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