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BTL Screening Series Hosts Anna Karenina Q&A


Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina

The Below the Line Screening Series continued with a screening of Anna Karenina Thursday at the Landmark Theater Hollywood. The theater was filled to capacity as the audience enjoyed the latest production from the filmmakers who brought audiences Atonement and Pride & Prejudice. After the film concluded, BTL had arranged for a Q&A session with the film’s director, Joe Wright and its cinematographer, Seamus McGarvey.

The session opened with a question to Wright regarding the late decision to shoot the film on a stage, rather than on location as was the previous plan. About 10 weeks before shooting for Anna Karenina started, after experiencing the cost of hotels, Russian tax and the other expenses of shooting on location, Wright made the decision to shoot on a stage. This decision gave the film aesthetic distinction as well as a new set of challenges for the filmmakers to overcome.

“As soon as we were in the theater and we knew that we were going to have to explore the architectural space, and look at how the camera moved around the place and told the story and shifted scenarios, it was great because I started to light in a totally different way,” McGarvey said. “It forced me – it sort of slingshotted me – into being a different cinematographer than I normally am.”

McGarvey credited the whole crew, including gaffers and camera operators, with striving to create the vision Wright had. “It was good because it made us bolder about the light and about the camera,” McGarvey said. “And in a way, it distilled the cinematography.”

“The wonderful thing about working with Joe is that it’s like a troop of people, and all the ideas are totally democratically shared,” McGarvey said. “And it’s brilliant because it’s a spiral of ideas, a maelstrom of ideas, and loads of them have to go through the portal of ‘yea’ or ‘nay.’”

For this film, Wright brought along many creators who worked with him on Atonement and Pride & Prejudice, including Dario Marianelli, who composed the film’s original music. “Dario and I have kind of developed this way of composing a lot of the score prior to shooting, we did that with Pride & Prejudice and we did that on Atonement.” Wright said. “On Atonement we had a typewriter theme and that gave Saoirse Ronan the rhythm to walk in. And so it’s really an extension of those ideas. I conceived of the film as a ballet with words.”

The filmmakers chose to shoot Anna Karenina on Super 16 film, allowing them to take advantage of some of the peculiarities of focus that are not available when shooting digitally. McGarvey sang the praises of both film and digital, saying that filmmakers today are the luckiest, because they have both options available.

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