The American Society of Cinematographers

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Return to Table of Contents January 2016 Return to Table of Contents
ASC Theatrical Nominees
Roger Deakins
Janusz Kaminski
Ed Lachman
Emmanuel Lubezki
John Seale
ASC Close-Up


Cinematographer: Ed Lachman, ASC

Todd Haynes’ period drama Carol brings cinematographer Ed Lachman, ASC, his third ASC Award nomination. He was previously nominated in this category for Far from Heaven and in the TV MOW/Pilot/Miniseries category for Mildred Pierce (AC April ’11); both projects were also collaborations with Haynes, whose creative partnership with Lachman spans more than 13 years. “Todd is highly visual, though our conversations are usually more about the approach to the image rather than what the image will be,” Lachman told AC.

Set in New York in the 1940s, Carol follows Therese (Rooney Mara), a young, introverted sales clerk who becomes smitten with an unhappily married older woman, Carol (Cate Blanchett). The two become emotionally involved, but Carol’s husband (Kyle Chandler) is determined to save his marriage at any cost.

Lachman noted that there are key stylistic differences between Carol and Far from Heaven, though their respective periods are not that far apart. “Melodrama is a film style that observes social forces confronting people’s lives, [a genre] in which you’re watching relatively ordinary people suffer under forces of social mores that they’re not able to overcome, confront or change,” he said. “In the films of Douglas Sirk [which influenced Far from Heaven], there is mannerism in the performances, and there’s artifice in the studio lighting and color and camera movement. It’s a description of a picture-perfect world that could be, but is never allowed to be …. For Carol, we rejected that high-gloss world of melodrama in favor of the soiled and muted color palette of 1940s color still photography.

Carol’s form of melodrama observes people from the outside, but situated in a world of naturalism,” he continued. “The camera moves with [the characters], and even when it’s objective, we’re still trying to evoke their emotions by shooting them through doors and windows and reflections. By seeing the characters partially obscured, we’re attempting to express their dislocated and fragmented identities. We also wanted to incorporate the subjective viewpoint of the amorous mind — the mind of someone falling in love, when you read every sign and symbol of the other person.”

Lachman and Haynes briefly considered shooting 2-perf 35mm, but they rejected that idea in favor of shooting Super 16mm. “We wanted to reference film stocks of a previous time period,” Lachman explained. “Their grain structure and color separation were different than that of today’s digital photography, which is pixel-fixated on one plane. The grain structure in film, and its movement, is affected by exposure: finer grain in highlights, larger in low light. That can’t be represented digitally, even if you add digital grain later.

“Also, the color separation in film, affected by gels and color temperature, responds differently than in digital media. The RGB layers in film, though microscopic, create a sense of depth of color in the image that I find lacking in digital photography. As an analogy, when you look at a painting, you’re affected by the brush strokes’ sense of depth and how the colors interact, but in a photograph of the same painting, you lose that sense of depth.”

Lachman shot the picture on Kodak Vision3 500T 7219, 250D 7207, 200T 7213 and 50D 7203. He used an Arri 416 with 35mm-format lenses; his kit included a Cooke 20-60mm Varopanchro zoom (T3.1), an Angenieux Optimo 25-250mm zoom (T3.5), an Arri/Zeiss Master Zoom 16.5-110mm (T2.6), and his personal set of Cooke S2 Speed Panchros. (A Cooke Super 16-format 10-30mm T1.6 Varopanchro zoom was also part of the package.) “I chose Speed Panchros primarily because the falloff on the edges of the optics lends the image a portrait-like feeling," he said. “That makes it similar to the glass used during that era. My preference is not to use any diffusion with Super 16. I was often filming through windows and reflections, which became my diffusion.”

Principal photography took place on location in and around Cincinnati, Ohio. “Much of the architecture in Cincinnati still references that time period, which was great for us,” says Lachman. “On Far from Heaven we were creating a studio-backlot world, a world of artifice, in real locations. On Carol we wanted to play off the existing environment to create a naturalism that would be true to that period.”

Day exteriors were typically filmed without artificial light. Instead, a 12'x12' or 8'x8' Ultrabounce or muslin was used to balance the exposure. For the interiors, special care was taken to preserve the privately owned and often historic locations; in those cases, Lachman employed sources such as 30" 2K China balls and covered wagons with 150-watt and 250-watt incandescent bulbs diffused with muslin or 1000H vellum. “They make beautiful light for women’s faces,” he observed.

Excerpted from the December 2015 issue. Original reporting by Iain Stasukevich. The full article is available online.




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