Emotional Triggers

2930 Words12 Pages
When director of photography Conrad Hall, ASC and director Sam Mendes teamed to make American Beauty, few could have predicted that their dark vision of suburban malaise would be such a smash success. The film won five Academy Awards, including those for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography (Hall’s second Oscar, following his triumph for the 1969 Western classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). Hall’s work also earned him his third ASC Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography (see AC June ‘00). Road to Perdition, Hall and Mendes’ second collaboration, took the duo into decidedly different territory. Based on a graphic novel authored by Max Allan Collins, the film is a tale about the Irish Mafia set in 1930s Chicago. At its heart is the relationship between fathers and sons; after his professional life tragically impacts his domestic life, hit man Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) sets out on a wintry journey of self-discovery with his son, Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin). Along the way, Sullivan must come to terms with his adoptive father, Irish crime lord John Rooney (Paul Newman). “Road to Perdition is a period movie in which there are no double-breasted, pin-striped suits and no spats,” Mendes says. “I was trying to get away from all the clichés of the gangster genre.” Hall’s overarching strategy for the film dovetailed with the director’s goal by favoring naturalistic realism over a more stylized approach to the material. “The thing that makes this picture work so well is a kind of honesty,” Hall says. “It’s a sort of honest reality that doesn’t try to be theatrical in any way. There is no blue moonlight, no green vistas, none of that kind of stuff. The film has very carefully crafted compositions, it’s meticulously cut, and it’s paced very gently and slowly — all of which is good for the story.” Of his photography, Hall notes that “I’m not trying to characterize the people in the film; the actors do that. I’m trying to frame them in an appropriate emotional context for the scenes. How are their characters behaving in those scenes? Are they behaving like human beings? My goal is to make a given scene emotionally accessible for the audience. I just try to make it real. Whatever the story is trying to say to the audience dictates to me the mood I should use to reach that audience. In this case, the film is about a father who’s trying to raise his son so that the boy won’t grow up to be like him.
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