Writing with Light: Vittorio Storaro () - IMDb
The Italian Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, understood the world In Writing with Light a documentary about Storaro works he explains how. The George Eastman Museum this week is celebrating legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, and on Saturday will present him the. is not only a BOOK, but the project of a lifetime; an encyclopedia by a visionary, a researcher, a scholar, about that which Philosophers - Painters - Scientists.
On the other hand, Johannes Vermeer tried to create harmony between light and shadows. Leonardo DaVinci was trying to find the perfect balance between the two opposite extremes: Reading many philosophers, I realized that every single visual element could influence our mind, giving us different emotions. Because light is energy. Every single color, according to Isaac Newton, has its own specific wave length.
The kind of energy, the kinds of vibrations that arrive in our body, give us a different feeling. This is something that is scientifically proven. One different color will change our blood pressure, our metabolism.
Freud discussed the colors of our dreams. If, when we were very young, we witnessed our mother dressing at a particularly harmonious moment, for example, in an orange color, we connect harmony with orange.
Or maybe if somebody else was dressing with the same color at a sad moment, we might look at this color in a negative way. This is the Symbology of color. There are several studies on the physiology of color that tell us how our body reacts to the different light or colors. I read as much as possible about philosophy: Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, the modern philosophers, painters, scientists, etc.
And from that moment on I started to write down the basic visual concept of each film. In Italy, we were made very aware by the director that each movie had to have its own look. I mainly write in images. So I was also taking still photographs and including them with what I was writing. These notes and photos eventually became my trilogy books: If you want to be an engineer, you go to university to study engineering.
If you want to be a writer, you do literature. If you want to be an architect, you do architecture. You have an institute. You have courses, workshops and seminars. In my opinion, what I lacked was the fact that I had never been taught in a balanced way. I knew about the technology that our teachers taught us, but not the other areas.
We need a university that could teach, at the same time, the history, the technology and the art. In Italy it is not so easy to open a university. And I never spoke with a student about technology. I asked some friends of mine to teach technology, because, of course, technology is very important, but not by itself. It really assembled the concepts that many philosophers, scientists and painters had done in their own lifetimes.
But I was not the only one. Other cinematographers in different countries were coming up with similar concepts. This was the time when we changed the concept that you cannot do film in color if the film is dramatic. In the seventies, we started to use color dramatically.
It was a new generation of Cinematography. I realized that my life was like a journey, made with different chapters. The second part of my life focused on the meaning of Colors.
The Calling of Vittorio Storaro | Film and Digital Times
And in the third part of my life, I tried to find the balance between opposite Elements: I realized, at this point, that this was the main concept of my own life. You may notice that each particular journey is described in each one my three books. Each is influenced by one specific director: I started to investigate about what the great Greek philosophers—Plato, Aristotle—were considering when we have an Idea, a new inspiration, coming from a suggestion of what is called the Muses.
Terpsichore took care of dancing, Euterpe of song, Calliope of epic poetry, and so on. The forms of expression connected with photography, cinema and television were not known in the era of Plato. Five centuries before Christ, the great Art of the time was created by Greek sculptors: The same thing can be said of the great Philosophers: One form of expression was in stone, and the other was in intangible thought.
These are incredible opposites. The Romans made incredible progress in architecture. They built sewers, aqueducts, temples theatres, and bridges.
The Master of Color: Vittorio Storaro
If you discuss the Renaissance, with Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raffaello, you think mainly about Painting. In the 17th century, it was mainly Music—created by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and others. In the 18th century there was an incredible surge of Literature. The 19th and 20 centuries became the modern visual era.
They are still here today in the 21st century. We are all born in the womb. But there are some people who have the chance to see more. To be more open. To have in their minds some intuition that others may lack. I tried to investigate several Visionary people, starting with Albert Einstein. This was an incredible intuition like the one that Caravaggio had in painting. In all my creative life I had the desire to attract the kind of films that I needed to do, that provided unique opportunities for me.
I was mainly concerned with the relationship between Light and Darkness. So I studied for one year all I could about the philosophy, the symbology, the dramaturgy of colors. You were studying first and then the films just happened to be offered? I had a feeling something like this would happen—that these films were coming. Luigi had given me several books about Buddhism.
My inner desire was to know more about that particular area. But some time in your life, you have to. I was looking at my bookshelf and I noticed one color, one book. I took down the book. Inside you had written that one day I would read it. In reading the story, in listening the words of Siddhartha, in trying to visualize them, we are learning the basic principles of life. It was such a wonderful joy for us.
More and more, I began to understand why and how we are performing in any profession. Woody Allen and I were talking few days ago that we were very, very lucky doing a profession that we love. In expressing ourselves, we are trying to understand who we are. And he told me: His films, and yours, are journeys of discovery. Everything is like that. I started to research paintings through different centuries that portray the story of Jesus.
Each different religion has its own legacy, its own tradition and culture. In the Christian religion, since a long time ago, every Pope felt obliged to give commissions to great artists to visualize the story of Gospel, the history of Jesus, in order for people to identify with a known figure.
I started to search for a way to visualize the history of Jesus and I did an incredible amount of research. I was not even finished with it,—of course you can never finish something like that—and I received a call from the producer Barry Osborne. Barry had told him about my research. Dean came to Rome and I showed it to him. It was practically as if I had already done my homework.
I was dreaming to do that kind of story. They had done an incredible job of pre-production. I was there with him for four months to prepare that incredible and wonderful film. During the next Christmas break, unfortunately the global monetary crisis of stopped the film from materializing.
In order to amplify this concept, I started to read a little book about the story of Muhammad. I was really enchanted by how much the history of Muhammad has many similarities to the life of Jesus.
The more I was reading the more I was, out of professional habit, trying to say to myself how wonderful it would be to visualize the history of this man. I finished the book, I put it on the table, not even 30 seconds went by, and I heard the little ping as email arrived. I opened the computer and an agent named Robbie Little from Los Angeles sent me an email to ask me if I was willing to be part of a project about the story of Muhammad directed by Majid Majidi. I think that when you love something for real, in such a way, you must send out some energy that somebody captures.
I think that if you love something, if you believe in something, for real, you prepare yourself to be ready for it. They sent me the script. Majid Majid came to Rome with the producer Mehdi Heidarian to meet me.
I remember it wason my birthday, June We spent all day together in my house. I asked them if they were planning a project that would try to divide or unite the different religions.
This is why we came to you. We would like to have several international collaborators to help me to do this story for an international audience. I would like the story to be a good interpretation of the Koran and the philosophy of our Prophet about the dignity of man. Majid invite me to go to Iran. We spoke about the project.
I flew from Rome to Iran. Together with Miljen Kreka Kljakovic, the production designer, we visited the place that they selected to rebuild Mecca of the 6th century, just outside Tehran.
We had a great collaboration between myself, the production designer, the costume designer, the makeup artists, the special effects supervisor, and so on. The system has a copyright from Technicolor and Panavision. I proposed the lighting package that I normally use. I proposed some of my usual crew, who know how to use the lights, the camera, the Technocrane, and so on. I also proposed Technicolor as the laboratory and Kodak film from Rome.
Pratically all technical equipment came from Italy. It was a multi-national crew. We had two camera crews from Italy and two from Iran. Vittorio and the set of the ancient city of Mecca After a few trips back and forth between Rome and Tehran, I stayed ll year in Iran to prepare the film. Locations were all around Iran. We went to the desert of Kalut, a wonderful place near Afghanistan.
We went to the Persian Gulf. Vittorio in the desert of Kalut We really started filming in Iran at the end of October We filmed for 12 months until October 25, Why did it take so long? In Iran, a movie can take as long as five years to complete. Francis every morning would tell me his main concept for the sequence we were going to shoot.
And I was translating visually his words; proposing some kind of camera angle or some kind of lighting. And of course the director always has the final word. The director is the only one who can say, "Yes, this is correct" or "This is no good.
I feel comfortable with this philosophy. Only if I'm feeling that way can I work with a director for so long. That's why I've never loved the idea that people call me the Director of Photography. That title is completely wrong for us.
Because cinema is a common art; it's not a singular one. It's like an orchestra. In an orchestra, we have somebody that plays piano, somebody on violin, singing, or playing drums, whatever. But there is only one conductor.
It's the same thing in cinema. We have the writer, the production designer, costumer, the cinematographer, editor, composer; and the director is the only one who needs to have the final decision to lead all of us in the same direction.
That's why the word cinematographer is perfect for us. With the Director of Photography title we are creating a kind of conflict on the set because it means we have two directors. One is directing the visual area, and one is directing the content. Which is not true. The films you've worked on are often noted for their distinct use of color.
What is it about color that makes it such an important tool in your storytelling? It's one of the most important things that today's cinematographers should keep in mind. We had 50 to 60 years of cinema that were all in black-and-white. Practically a whole generation began seeing cinema in black-and-white. When color came out -- in Technicolor and through Eastman Kodak -- people thought that maybe color would not be compatible.
Photography is made through the relationship -- in harmony or conflict -- between light and shadow. Leonardo da Vinci said that colors are the children of light and shadow.
Isaac Newton showed that white light can be opened with a prism, and you can see what is inside; the seven colors: Only when you put all those colors back together can you create white light, which is a fantastic concept. In a sense, that light is visible energy. Energy we can feel with our entire body. Our blood pressure, our metabolism changes if we are backed by strong light or we are in shadow.
Today not many cinematographers know about the expression and energy color can provide when you see it. Don't be afraid to use color. Colors are not the enemy; they are friends. What led to that decision? I shot for Woody Allen on set with a big monitor which showed exactly what we are doing, exactly what the movie will look like.