Theres one point in the film when we track in past an over-the-shoulder to Julianne Moore alone in the frame. Even then, shes not framed like women are today. Women today have a sturdy dominance of the frame, whereas women in Sirks films are framed with headroom theyre diminished by the frame. They dont own their own frame.
Lachman: The framing was totally alien to me. In those medium shots, theyd sometimes cut off peoples hands or feet. I know they did it for the geography and because they needed certain information from a two-shot or a three-shot, but it was awkward for me to create those types of compositions.
How did you approach camera movement?
Lachman: The Sirk films have a lot of moving masters. Maybe it was to complete the days work they shot those films in 18 to 24 days! But I noticed that the camera wasnt as much in peoples eyelines as it would be today. The camera is often off the eyeline in a two-shot or a single because it was moving, and they thought it had to see both characters. I think this helped the audience look at the characters with a kind of distance, which is a Brechtian idea.
Haynes: Even in big crane shots on Sirks films, theres always a sense that the character is trapped in a space. [Camera movement] never liberates them.
Lachman: On this film, we used a 90-foot crane called the Strada. It comes from Oregon, and it was the only one like it on the East Coast. Our key grip, Jimmy McMillan, is the sole distributor for it in the East, and we used it a lot. Theres one shot in which Cathy walks around her house, and the crane rises up and gives us a perspective looking down at her. Its all about entrapment the character is never able to leave the frame.
Sirks dramatic use of color is clearly another element of his style integral to this film.
Haynes: Every scene in his films has a palette in which complementary warm and cool colors interact. If the scene is predominantly cool, then it has warm highlights, and the interaction is subtle and complex in the way that emotions are complex.
Lachman: I used different combinations of advancing and receding colors to suggest the interplay of characters emotions. I used cool colors against warm colors to establish the characters conflicts with themselves and their environments.
Haynes: There are two bar scenes, one in a gay bar and the other in a bar on the black side of town. We used different greens and warm colors in both settings, but to very different effect. One scene is supposed to have a slightly disturbing otherworldliness, and the other is the site of one of the films peak romantic moments; the same basic colors create polar-opposite moods.
Lachman: We wanted to show that the black bar was closer to nature, which is represented by Raymond, the gardener, whereas the gay bar was viewed at that time as an aberration. That pair of scenes is a good example of using the same colors in different chromas and hues to create the characters emotional context and space. The gay bar is done in secondary colors of lime green against magenta, whereas the black bar is done in primary colors of nature, forest green and the yellow-orange of the sun.
What were your discussions like with the other creative departments?
Lachman: I began prep six weeks before we started shooting. After my initial meeting with Todd, I got together with Mark Friedberg, the production designer, and Sandy Powell, the costume designer, to have extensive design and color meetings. Todd, Mark and I worked on the color palette and the spatial relationships of the designs in the sets. I shot extensive tests using 3-by-3 panels painted with the colors intended for the set; I experimented with them by mixing different-colored gels to create the Technicolor effect of deep saturation and hue.
What you get back on film doesnt always look the same as it does by eye. I didnt want to achieve the Sirkian Technicolor look with more contemporary methods, such as using digital color-correction or digital opticals, or by printing onto Vision Premier. Our approach was to retain a 1950s sensibility and use the techniques available to filmmakers at that time.
Was your approach to color determined entirely by the Sirk films, or did you take some departures?
Lachman: To suggest the emotional arc of our story, we explored different looks for night. Far From Heaven takes place over different seasons, and thats a metaphor for whats happening to the characters emotionally. We changed the color of ambient night light as the seasons changed. For the fall scenes in the beginning, the night is a lavender or periwinkle blue. As the story evolves and we get into winter, as Cathy and Franks relationship deteriorates, night becomes more aquamarine or green-blue less warm.
You seem to have discovered that hewing to the visual conventions of Sirks films actually gave you the freedom to create something quite emotional.
Haynes: Thats true for every element. Its true for the dialogue as well there are only certain things the characters could say, and only certain gestures they could make. Its about using a limited set of terms to describe a much bigger set of issues. Its almost the opposite of filmmaking today. Today, we have endless ways of telling a story about a guy who shoots another guy. We can whoosh in and out, and the camera can be with the bullet as it goes into somebodys body. The visual vernacular is overwhelming, but the content what theyre trying to say seems to be shrinking.
Kodak EXR 200T 5293, Vision 500T 5279
Printed on Kodak Vision 2383