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HomeAwardsContender – Director of Photography Pawel Edelman, Carnage

Contender – Director of Photography Pawel Edelman, Carnage


Pawel Edelman

Lensing comedy-drama Carnage, award-winning director of photography Pawel Edelman was literally cornered, as were the quartet of actors who make up the entire cast. The film is directed by Roman Polanski, with whom the DP has worked on his three previous films. The movie is about an increasingly hostile confrontation between two sets of Manhattan parents who are trying to resolve a bullying incident that took place between their sons.

The action is almost entirely confined to the living room of the apartment of one of the couples. The DP’s task was to adapt to the space limitation and keep the film visually interesting. The film, a sardonic comedy-drama, was originally a Tony-winning play, “The God of Carnage,” by Yasmina Reza. It stars Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz.

“Our movie is set in real time and one interior, practically in a single room,” notes Edelman. “Therefore, we decided to arrange the action in the afternoon, when the daylight transforms into the evening light. “This transition – from the sunny day to cool blue evening – when smooth and not divided into stages, lets the interior change its character. This development corresponds with the emotions of the protagonists.”

Edelman employs a variety of compositions and angles, and modulations of shadows and light.  Different characters move into the foreground, while the others subtly recede into different areas of the apartment.  A number of mid-range to super close-ups are used, and the distance is shortened to very tight framing on individuals as the argument grows more heated over what started out as a minor incident.

(From left) John C. Reilly, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet star in <em>Carnage</em>. (Photo by: Guy Ferrandis, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics).

Intent on getting a “cinematic” look, with a visible grain and negative structure, the DP used an  Arricam ST 35mm camera with the Kodak Vision 3 negative. “We didn’t want our film to look like a ‘TV show’ but like a real movie,” observes the DP.  He also cites the production design by Oscar-winner Dean Tavoularis for creating a smart and detailed backdrop for his camerawork.

The greatest challenge, he says, “was to find an interesting way of lighting that would reflect the emotions of characters and at the same time be universal enough to let us work fast. I wanted to give Roman and the actors as much time as possible.” Together with gaffer Michael Monod, “we had to build up a score of the lighting effect changes and execute them almost imperceptibly. Alongside, it appeared that the drastic changes, like the transition from the day into the night, are a lot easier to achieve.”

Previous collaborations between Edelman and Polanski were The Pianist, Oliver Twist and The Ghost Writer.  Edelman was nominated for an Oscar in 2002 for his cinematography on The Pianist, a story about a musician in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. The film also won three Academy Awards including best director for Polanski.  Edelman, 53, was born in Lodz, Poland and attended the famous film school there.

His DP work on The Pianist lifted Edelman to the top ranks of international cinematographers. He was named best European cinematographer in 2002, and also won the European Film Award and France’s César. He also received a nomination for outstanding achievement in cinematography from the American Society of Cinematographers. He received another A.S.C. nomination in 2005 for his work on the biopic Ray.

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