Lachman: Sirk and Metty always had their characters kind of edged and separated from their world by darkness. Again, this reinforced a kind of emotional loneliness. They weren’t afraid to use strong chiaroscuro lighting. We used lighting that would generally be associated with film noir – more of a black-and-white style, with hard lights coming from up on a grid.

My gaffer, John DeBlau, started out in the Sixties as an electrician, so he was very aware of the style of lighting they used back then. We created a grid system and had lighting cues. When the camera follows actors and they move in and out of certain spaces, we had to have somebody controlling the light from a lighting board so the cameras wouldn’t create a shadow. Today we usually use softer, bigger sources; we’re not usually going through such hard lights.

I used Big-Eye 10K Fresnels through the windows and 2Ks and 1Ks on the set. I tried to use units they would have used in that time period. They might have had different gels, but we got the same kind of rendition by mixing complementary gels.

Also, Russell Metty did something that I found really interesting: he used lightbulbs of different color temperatures in the fixtures. In All That Heaven Allows, I think he used daylight bulbs in the practicals and then lit the room to be warm, which would be the opposite of what you’d normally do. For the night scenes in the bedroom, I used what are called ‘bug lights,’ the yellow lights used for exterior lighting at night. And then the [ambient] night [light] had a blue-purple or blue-green look, so the tungsten lights, even though they burnt out, emanated a certain warmth that worked in contrast to the blue.

So your approach was very different from one you’d take to light a contemporary film?

Lachman: Metty lit Sirk’s characters in their environment, rather than lighting the environment and then having people move through it. It was more like portrait lighting. I used more backlight on Far From Heaven than I normally would. Those films try to separate people from their environment, from the walls. Perhaps it came out of [working with] black-and-white, but they were much more cognizant of key-, fill- and backlight for every shot.

When someone stands next to a lamp in a contemporary film, we try to show that the light is coming from the lamp, that the lamp is the source. But on this film, we decided to have another light over the lamp, so that when the person is standing next to the lamp, the light is edging them from a source other than the lamp.

Sirk’s films were shot almost entirely on studio backlots, but you shot Far From Heaven on location.

Lachman: We shot it in New Jersey, which was standing in for Hartford, Connecticut. We used towns that were in a kind of time warp, but the difficulty for me was recreating the kind of artifice that Sirk achieved by shooting everything on a soundstage. I brought in lights for the day exteriors; I used [color-corrected] tungsten units, not HMIs, to create the look and feel of the units they used then.

Also, we were lucky that we began shooting in the fall, exactly as the leaves were turning. I think the colors of the leaves had a lot to do with creating a sense of artifice, even though we were on real locations. Plus, a lot of scenes were shot late in the day in overcast conditions, which helped me give the colors of the leaves a richer rendition. Interestingly, if you limit the range of highlight and shadow, colors become more vibrant because the film emulsion is able to hold the all the information. If it isn’t totally gray outside, those highlights come through richer because the latitude of the film isn’t so stretched.

I also used 10K Big-Eyes with gels and some large reflectors to accentuate parts of the frame and bring out specific colors. When I saw how well this worked, I decided to duplicate the effect even when we were shooting in bright sunlight; in those conditions, I used negative fill and a lot of 12-by and 20-by diffusion to simulate an overcast look. The idea was to give the scenes shot on location the feel of scenes shot in the studio.

In the old days, cinematographers were less concerned about where the shadows were coming from, even outside. Was that a consideration for you?

Lachman: I never consciously tried to create double shadows outside because of my own aversion to them, but if they were there, I didn’t fight them.

Did you maintain a particular focal length throughout the film?

Haynes: The Sirk films tend towards wider angles and traveling masters that settle a few different times in a scene. They have elegant compositions that incorporate the architecture into the frame, but the effect is claustrophobic in every sense of the word.

Lachman: I watched Sirk’s films closely, and I think Metty used 25mm and 32mm lenses a lot. Even close-ups used nothing longer than 40mm. It created a spatial relationship for the character that placed him or her in the environment. I tried to use the same focal lengths on Far From Heaven. We never shot a close-up with a 75mm or a 100mm. I used older Cooke lenses, the Speed Pancros, for a lot of the film. I used Cooke S4s at night because I needed the speed, but I used the older lenses when I could.

Haynes: In a weird way, I think wide-angle lenses are more oppressive than long lenses, because everything is visible. There’s no escaping the vantage point of the camera. The character is limited by the architecture and the way other people are placed in the frame. When a character’s talking to someone else, he or she is never alone in the frame; it’s always an over-the-shoulder shot.

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© 2002 American Society of Cinematographers.