No Country for Old Men | Opening

May 15th, 2017

No Country For Old Men, by Joel and Ethan Coen opens with a series of landscape shots with the sun rising over the barren arena in which the narrative takes place. I love the look of this film, and wanted to begin understanding some of the cinematic choices of cinematographer Roger Deakins, so I decided that this first sequence of landscapes, at the very beginning of the film would be a good start.

Without having to worry about the composition of actors, I could focus on capturing the color palette of the hills, trees and sky, capturing their forms with simple, yet descriptive shapes. Even as I progressed through these images, I discovered different and better techniques to represent elements. I gave myself a time limit of 30 minutes for each shot to make sure I didn't get caught up in details or trying to make everything perfect. The hills for example do not exactly match those in the originals, but they capture the overall essence, the color harmonies, the big shapes, and the sense of light.

Studying this sequence, I could appreciate how much is said with such a simple sequence, before even knowing what the story is about. We get this sense that the world is transforming. The first images in the dark with the sun rising have a beauty to them. The contrast of the orange hues to the blue, and the light and dark shapes as night turns to day. Dawn is normally thought of as a hopeful moment, a mark of new beginnings. But the final shot with the windmill on the impossibly flat landscape and the sun glaring down from overhead changes all of that, bringing us into the harsh reality of the story that is about to unfold.

If you haven't seen the film or read the book, I highly recommend them both.

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