Free «The Butler: Cinematography» Essay Sample

The Butler: Cinematography

The Butler (2013) is a movie produced and directed by Lee Daniels. The film shows the story of Cecil, who managed to work as a butler in the White House and served eight different presidents, which enabled him to witness important momentums in history. Andrew Dunn managed the cinematography of the film. Forest Whitaker plays the main character in this film, Cecil Gaines, who recollects his life from a humble beginning. In his childhood, Cecil worked on a cotton farm. On growing up, Cecil becomes a successful butler. This report analyzes how Lee Daniels used photography, lighting, and speed to convey his message.

I was glued to the film due to its flow of events from the beginning to the end. The transition from one scene to the next is smooth and it does not interfere with viewers but makes them understand the film even better. Lee Daniels places emphasis on the nature of performance and concentrates more on Cecil. The director of the film has a great ability to lead most of his actors into unbridled areas, hence making the movie even more gripping.

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The director of the movie managed to combine all the effects in the movie to make the movie look attractive. The peculiarity of the movie The Butler is that it does not adhere to a straight light approach. On the contrary, the lighting of The Butler is different from one scene to another, hence helping to unfold the story that takes place during 80 years (Romanazzi, 2013). According to Bordwell and Thomson (2010), when lighting varies from place to place, it manages to attract the attention of the audience. The film has a natural feeling in most scenes but at points when drama needs to be conveyed, the lights become theatrical with the help of powerful backlights and sidelights. These key lights sometimes emit a blue cast and the viewer can see the example of such light change in the scene of hanged human beings or in the scene of the butler's son first kiss.

The main character serves in the White House silently; he is discrete and does not allow people to feel his presence (Romanazzi, 2013). I admire the method Andrew Dunn used to convey this concept visually. He placed the actor aside by means of composition. Thus, while being present, it seems that the character is unnoticeable or even forgotten. Moreover, Andrew Dunn made efficient use of lighting, placing the focus on presidents and people surrounding them, thus leaving the butler underexposed. In the scenes that take place in the White House, the lighting and the way of shooting are academic, precise, and neat. On the contrary, in the scenes shoot outside, Dunn allowed himself to be more creative. For example, he combined the archive video recording with his footage shot on the Kodak (5207 250D) that is manipulated in the postproduction with an aim of matching the original one. However, Dunn managed to maintain a formal shooting throughout the movie. Thus, the actual filming is accurate and observes all the rules of photography.

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In The Butler, the director used various diffusion filters on the lens with an aim of making the film more real, thus attracting and getting spectators into the actual story. In defining the diverse periods of the movie, one can see a variety of gradations used. In particular, there is a strong diffusion in the flashbacks, which finally becomes a bit softer as the story draws on systematically through the years until we reach the present days, where there is no diffusion filter used. Another beneficial solution was using the yellow cast that is normally associated to the family. As a result, this yellow color is utilized in scenes of the butler's home.

The camera rarely moves and, according to Bordwell and Thomson (2010), it thus limits itself specifically to witnessing the story as it develops in front of the lens. The viewers always know where they are and what they are looking at, which complies with the academic way of shooting. The sound in the film has added in making the movie more effective and real. Bordwell and Thomson (2010) explain that the sound effects make the film seem real since the tone of the music varies according to the events that are taking place. The music in the film did not interrupt my enjoyment but made me enjoy the film more.

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Most parts of the film are natural apart from the scene where Ku Klux Klan stops and overtakes the bus of the Freedom Riders with butler’s son among them. In this situation, one sees a member of the Freedom Riders tossing a Molotov cocktail into the vehicle. The camera angles are appropriate and the director was able to convey the message well to the audience. Screen direction in the film is perfect and in the shooting, the camera focuses directly on the objects to be covered.

As I continued to enjoy the film, an abnormal wave of anger surged heavily through me. It finally gave way to deep disappointment that emerged when I realized how simplified the film was. Daniels managed to put together a story that has the best speed and is tightly structured. However, the transitions of the movie made by Joe Klotz appear to be clunky. What prevents the movie from being a real mess is an accurate performance done by the cast, namely Oyelowo, Whitaker, and Winfrey. The actors showed the willingness of forgoing the dramatic showboating in the favor of the more humble and poignant acting. Other actors such as Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lenny Kravitz helped in making a real sense of the actual humanity to the roles of the Gaines’ best friends.