I decided to write a blog about the film Road To Perdition due to its beautiful cinematography which made me curious about how it was crafted which I will cover later.
Although set in the 1930’s era of Chicago, unlike most mob films, Road To Perdition has a distinctly different feel to the majority of films that have been produced over the years that tell the stories of prohibition, bootlegging.
The film visually conveys some of the best lighting and composition I have seen and the work and skill that has gone into the framing and lighting is a work of art. Much of the work in relation to the lighting may go unnoticed by many viewers, but to me it’s like a moving Hopper painting and the resemblance is both obvious and uncanny with the camera focusing upon people in pools of light and shadow which provide a visual key to the emotional meaning to a scene or character.
Despite a list of very well known actors, Mendes (the director) wanted to keep the audience at a distance from Tom Hanks’ character for the first part of the film, this was achieved through clever lighting and composition, the director of photography Conrad Hall, ASC, and Director Sam Mendes
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 way the story unfolds. OriginallyRoad to Perdition was to be shot entirely on location in Chicago and the nearby town of Pullman to create an authentic Midwestern look. The Illinois State Film Commission provided the filmmakers with the Armoury, the largest location mainstay in Chicago and large enough to hold a football field, so the facility offered the filmmakers considerable flexibility. The interiors of the Sullivan house and the Rooney mansion were among the sets also built at the Armoury. What I learned about the Lighting Of Road To Perdition
“We had four or five trailer loads of lighting and equipment,” says gaffer Stern, “and although production would probably say it was really big, I’d say we had just enough.
It took six miles of 4/0 cable, which fed four 24 x 12K racks, to light the Armoury. The cable also fed two 48 x 4K racks — enough to illuminate an average suburban neighborhood. Some 20Ks were also used to create sidelight. Every light fixture was run through the ETC. Wall outlets on the set were practical and were also patched into the dimmer controls. The stage was kept rigged at all times because whenever exterior filming during the Chicago winter proved too harsh, the production headed indoors for coverage.
The backings — black for night scenes and white for day were lit with a mix of 10K Fresnel’s and 5K Skypans; there were about 60 Skypans and 30 Fresnel’s in use at all times. All of the lights were patched into a dimmer board using an ETC rack system. The small Fresnel instruments were usually aimed directly at white parts of the ceiling to create a soft bounce fill.
If you have not watched this film, here is a brief outline: Road to Perdition is American crime film directed by Sam Mendes. The screenplay was adapted by David Selfformthe graphic novel of the same name, by Max Allan Collins. The film stars Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig. The plot takes place in 1931, during the Great Depression, following a mob enforcer and his son as they seek vengeance against a mobster who murdered the rest of their family.
The scenery and settings for this movie help to create quite a unique atmosphere and the wide shots, long angles that are used help to make this film stand out as being above average. Beyond just the cinematography, the acting by the cast also stands out.
Road To Perdition is an extremely beautiful film and I now find myself watching it time and again, looking at the lighting and composition and it’s teaching me a great deal.