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Another example of the striking use of colored light is the scene in Sebastian's toy room, during which Deckard encounters another replicant, Pris (Daryl Hannah). She is made up with white makeup, and the scene is lit with rose-colored light.
Colored lights were also occasionally used to create a special effect for the replicant's eyes: "One of the identifying characteristics of replicants is a strange glowing quality in their eyes," Cronenweth notes. "To achieve this effect, we'd use a two-way mirror 50 percent transmission, 50 percent reflection placed in front of the lens at a 45-degree angle. Then we'd project a light into the mirror so that it would be reflected into the eyes of the subject along the optical axis of the lens. We'd sometimes use very subtle gels to add color to the eyes. Often, we'd photograph a scene with and without this effect, so Ridley would have the option of when he'd use it."
In discussing the photography of Blade Runner, however, Cronenweth emphasizes that technique was not the most important consideration. "The thing that was unique was not the equipment or the gels or the intensity or the hard or soft light," he stresses. "It was the concept behind each situation telling the story. Since the film is set in the future, unusual sources of light could be used where one would not accept them in a contemporary setting. For example, many of the people on the street set carried umbrellas that had fluorescent tubes incorporated in their shafts, providing a light source which could create a glow on their faces."
Cronenweth is particularly emphatic about backlight and contrast. "I can never use enough backlighting," he says. "It's just that some directors want to see the actors' faces. I keep telling them that the audience only goes to see the sex." The cinematographer is as interested in creating mood or an effect as he is in lighting an actor's face. He tends to use soft frontlight with a hard backlight, although, he adds, "I love hard light in the face if it is overexposed. I think that's beautiful. It's different; it's unusual. It's exciting; it's violent.
"Blade Runner is a piece that calls for extremes. It's naturally a wonderful vehicle for this kind of lighting. It's theatrical, but it will be very real in the film. In this film, I think you'll just accept it. It transcends theatricality."
In addition to using soft frontlight, Cronenweth often lit faces from below. In addition to the glowing umbrella handles, he often made use of water or other reflective surfaces to provide uplight in several scenes. The combination of warm soft uplight in the foreground with hard backlight and smoke in the background is probably the most characteristic feature of the lighting style for Blade Runner.
[ continued on page 3 ] © 1999 ASC