Cinematography in the Blade Runner 2049

Subject: 🎨 Art
Type: Profile Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1393
Topics: 🎞️ Film Analysis, 📽️ Film Review
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Cinematography is an important aspect that is included in the production of a film. The photographer in a film has a vital role to play in ensuring that the audience gets to understand and feel one with the film even without listening to it through audio means. Blade Runner is an American film that is actually a sequel to a previous Blade Runner film in 1982 (The Blade Runner 2049, 2017). Considering its cinematography has been recognized by significant bodies in the film industry, it is in order to look into its photography and whoever is in charge; Roger Deakins. Blade Runner 2049 has been recognized primarily for its exemplary work in cinematography, production design, performance and direction. 

In the production of the movie Blade Runner 2049, its principal photography was carried out between the months of July and November in 2016 (The Blade Runner 2049, 2017). The principal photography was mainly done in Budapest, Hungary.  Roger Deakins is considered to be an auteur in the Blade Runner 2049 mainly because his field of specification is what earned the film massive popularity. His work resulted in the Blade Runner 2049 being regarded as a revolutionary spectacle in the advancement of films. The photography in the Blade Runner 2049 managed to bag an award from the British Society of Cinematographers, BAFTA, Satellite Awards, Chicago Film Critics Association, Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics, Seattle Film Critics Society, Florida Film Critics Circle, Houston Film Critics Society and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (The Blade Runner 2049, 2017). Before the sequel, the first film of Blade Runner also received recognition for its exemplary photography. In 1993, the Blade Runner was settled on for the choice of conservancy in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. The photography in both Blade Runner films in a way set a pace in the rest of science fiction films as well as other films in other genres (Vilkomerson, 2017). 

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Roger Deakins is amongst the few cinematographers that have the ability to make photography an additional fully-fleshed out personality in a film (Oliver, 2017). Most of Deakins’ films are known for their exceptional accomplishments in cinematography. Roger Deakins uses a specific director of photography technique in executing their shots. 

The photography by Roger Deakins in the Blade Runner 2049 greatly determines how the audience understands and connects with the film. A lot of themes and interpretations would not have been made possible without the expertise shown by Roger Deakins. The photography in the Blade Runner 2049 made good use of strong backlighting and the use of light shafts. In the past, black and white films maximized their use of backlighting and light shafts (Rougeau, 2017). Ridely Scott; the director was keen on making sure that the Blade Runner 2049 was likened to the ancient productions. Instead of using the same idea of light shafts and backlighting in a black and white setting, Roger Deakins instead incorporate the same aspect but in a color setting. 

The film form of Blade Runner 2049 is heavily reliant on visual representations and interpretations as it is a science fiction film.  A film form prompts the audience into developing a representation of reality especially since the Blade Runner 2049 is a science fiction film (Wakeman, 1999). The audience engages by trying to correlate images into an articulate whole structure.  Working together with Roger Deakins was Jordan Cronenweth who gave insight on how the exceptional cinematography in Blade Runner 2049 was achieved. According to Jordan Cronenweth, the cinematography involved in the Blade Runner 2049 employed the use of backlight, contrast, rain, lighting and smoke. All these elements enabled the direction of photography to attain the desired film moods and personalities (Maland, 1989). Jordan Cronenweth also notes that during photography, most of the film scenes were maintained at a colorless state. A good example will be how in place the use of facial contrast is. There are several instances where photography impresses the audience by depicting characters in a state of facial contrast. In essence, the cinematography capitalizes on facial contrast to portray characterization (Kadner, 2017). 

The Blade Runner 2049 is in a way likened to past black and white films in terms of directing and photography. Focusing on the advantages present in case a film is presented in black and white like contrast, strong textural presence and having less detail being forfeited in low light, cinematography of the Blade Runner did an efficient job in aping black and white film production (Maher, 2017). The direction of the film was meant to revolve around noir imagery in order to explore its thematic objectives. Cinematography was done exceptionally well to incorporate noir imagery into a futuristic aspect. Even though the film is set in the future, Roger Deakins still manages to achieve noir imagery without necessarily using black and white (Graham, 2017). 

Roger Deakins proves to be an integral player in the production of this film. It would have been hard to achieve a futuristic setting while at the same time trying to adhere to aspects of black and white filming (Kaines, 2017). Most futuristic set films employ the heavy use of neon lights. Instead of this, photography in the Blade Runner 2049 used shaft lighting. Together with shaft lighting, the photography also used smoke as a medium to enable the light to be shown off. Smoke was settled on as a prime choice because of the thematic interpretation of the future. According to the Blade Runner 2049, the future is depicted as urban, contaminated and laden with crime. In order to effectively deliver this representation to the audience, the use of smoke came in handy in achieving shaft lighting. A perfect example of use of shaft lighting is with the visual representation of airships floating over the city. The smoke used enhance the effect of powerful beams of light from the floating airships. The futuristic Los Angeles is represented through thick fogs and neon lights. 

The visual representation of the Blade Runner 2049 was centered on expressionism. According to Roger Deakins, the film provided a diversified set of environments to play with. Even with the presence of science fiction accessories that sometimes strayed into surrealism, Roger Deakinsb was supposed to find ground in lighting the reality. This aspect encompasses shooting almost everything in camera on stages in Budapest as well as locating the real world geographical reference. In the end, the desired cityscapes were created from the aerial footage of the city of Mexico, Las Vegas, Iceland, Spain and the Mojave Desert. Las Vegas is depicted as a world that is obscure and a little bit broken (Levey, 2017). Despite this, it still reminds the audience of the present day Las Vegas. The shots that stand out in the film concerning Las Vegas portray lonely statutes of the previous Las Vegas in Orange characterized by the radioactive effect. An alternative early model was Beijing smog. In this case, there is a gray haze with an occasional point of color being seen through. This idea was integral in capturing the futuristic aspect of the film through Los Angeles’ setting of rain and snow. 

With regards to the principles of film form, the Blade Runner has excelled in incorporating cinematography. In a way, Roger Deakins’ photography attains similarity, development, unity, difference and variation and function. The film achieves to portray naturalism. To do so, the cinematography involved the use of motivated light sources coupled with imagination from Roger Deakins. In order to capture the interior scenes, the photography made good use of soft and warm atmospheric colors. The lighting used soft sources and a large amount of gels (1,400 roll of gel) on lamp heads in order to achieve the different desired color atmospheres. To achieve the futuristic effect, there is very little green color used in the settings. The lack of green color indicates that there is nothing natural in this time. 

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In a way, Roger Deakins plays a determining role in the direction and production of the film Blade Runner 2049. He rightfully gains the description of an auteur. His work is integral in developing the theme of the film and reaching out to the audience. Even though the film has a lot of participants from the cast to the production team, Roger Deakins work stands out to define the overall look of the film. 

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  1. Graham, A., 2017. Detriot Film Critics Society honors Florida Project, Detroit: The Detroit News.
  2. Kadner, N., 2017. Blade Runner 2049: Designing the Future, New York: American Cinematographer.
  3. Kaines, R., 2017. Blade Runner 2049 May be set in the future, but do its female charactyers have one foot in the past?, New York: Moviepilot.
  4. Levey, Y., 2017. Design Inspiration: The Cinematography of Blade Runner 2049, Chicago: I am not my Pixels.
  5. Maher, K., 2017. Film Review: Blade Runner 2049, New York: The Times.
  6. Maland, C. J., 1989. Chaplin and American Culture. 1st ed. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  7. Oliver, M., 2017. Cinema’s brooding auteurs, Los Angeles: LA Times.
  8. Rougeau, M., 2017. How Blade Runner 2049 Resurrected That Character From the Original, New York: Gamespot.
  9. The Blade Runner 2049. 2017. [Film] Directed by Denis Villeneuve. America: Warner Bros. Pictures.
  10. Vilkomerson, S., 2017. Blade Runner 2049 screenwriter Michael Green answers our burning questions, New York: Enertainment Weekly.
  11. Wakeman, J., 1999. Film Auteurs. World Film Directors, 2(1), pp. 29-39.
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