For those who care: there may be spoilers in the text
With no language, no currency, and no idea what to do next, the weirdo is stuck in the border area of an airport. And that weirdo is Tom Hanks! The actor is not the first time to play a little silly, but empathic characters, he has the well-known Forrest Gump behind him. In “Terminal” the hero is of a different order, but also a little clumsy, funny, stupid and kind. Spielberg’s “Terminal” is not the director’s most revealing work, but these “not the best” sometimes hide rich visual images.
This is another text of a permanent section in which I analyze films in terms of color and composition of shots. The previous one can be read here.
Spielberg is one of those who thinks and works on pictures at all levels. Including at the level of emotional perception of the viewer. The blue color is always used associatively to emphasize a certain detachment, melancholy, loneliness. Roy Andersson generally builds almost all of his films and his typical lonely characters on cool shades.
But Spielberg goes further and hits the associative emotion jackpot. He uses a melancholy blue for a character as lonely as Navorsky. And most importantly — at the airport, a place where any person is a small Chekhov character surrounded by a faceless crowd of strangers.
Of course, where necessary, Spielberg complements it, working in the classic combination of blue and yellow. Blue in these scenes borders on shades of green, and yellow is twisted to neon-acid.
The picture of the film also occasionally goes into green tones, and the director supplements them with red elements.
Another fleeting shot proves that the director was engaged in serious elaboration of scenes and post-production. The screen is still the same blue, but taken closer to the azure hue. This means that the classic scheme of blue and red needs to be corrected: the latter is brought to a crimson hue by color correction.
It only takes a few freeze-frames to see how Spielberg thinks through the colors to the smallest detail. Here is the blue uniform, shading the yellow tones in the scene, the red shirt of the protagonist in the blue tones of the airport, red and blue again, and even the combination of yellow and blue only due to clothing in one of the scenes.
Steven Spielberg is not the first to work with color, using the clothes of the characters in the frame. But the use of such a tool emphasizes the seriousness of this work: competent coloring is not just about placing light sources with different temperatures.
In several scenes, you can see another stable color scheme, one of the most classic — RGB — red, green and blue. Look closely, even in the scene at the table there is red — bright flowers on the table.
One of the characteristic camera techniques in films is the effect of presence. Focus is taken on a person in the middle ground, and another is in the foreground. As a rule, he is only partially in the frame, facing the main character and out of focus. Such a simple technique allows the directors to evoke a sense of belonging among the viewers, as if they were unwitting participants in this dialogue on the screen. The reception can be seen in Nolan in Inception, Anderson in The French Herald, and Spielberg himself in Catch Me If You Can. “Terminal” is no exception — here the effect of presence also appears sporadically.
The Terminal is not the biggest fish in Spielberg’s nets, but this film definitely has something to note and take note of. Below are six interesting director’s tricks that you can safely put on the moodboard of your filming.
1. Shooting in a crowd.
This setting can even be seen in the work of Peter Lindbergh. You can follow the style of the film and place your subject in the center of the airport hall. There are other options — place the model in the middle of a pedestrian crossing, surrounded by people passing by, or turn it to face the camera on an escalator against traffic. Any crowded space will do.
This shot is great to shoot with a long exposure. So the silhouettes of passing people will become completely faceless, blurry. The emphasis will remain on the motionless hero.
The light source is aimed at the background in such a way that the hero in the foreground remains only a dark silhouette without details. This is back light. A simple studio scheme can be transferred to any other location.
3. Shooting through glass.
This technique has long been chosen by many photographers, and the frames from the “Terminal” are just one more confirmation of the visual power of such shooting. Due to the reflective properties of the glass, almost a double exposure shot is obtained. In addition, the glass in such cases works as a smoothing filter.
4. Side and directional light.
In the movie, this technique is used only in a couple of scenes. Directing light on the faces of the characters, the director emphasizes their emotions, focusing the attention of the viewer. This technique is easy to use in portrait photography. It is enough just to set the light source on the side of the subject. To repeat the frame with the girl, you need a point light source, such as a photo torch. This technique is used when it is necessary to highlight a specific detail in the frame or, as in this case, the face of the heroine.
From scene to scene, Spielberg’s film reinforces the airport’s power as an interesting location to shoot. Lots of neon signs, glass, metal, reflective surfaces and bright lights. If shooting at the airport is problematic for you, you can use any shopping center or brightly lit public place as a location. Due to the details in the frame, the location can be used for experiments with non-standard light. A new setting for today’s popular color shoots, not only in the evening.
6. Sophisticated light. Selected frames can be copied directly into the moodboard of future shooting: why not a picture in the spirit of popular photographers shooting with bright lighting? This is already a trend, so technically there is nothing new in these frames from the Terminal. However, such findings are yet another reminder that ideas can be drawn from anywhere. Even from films 20 years ago, when no one was talking about multi-colored shooting.