Cinematography is a visual language in filmmaking that speaks to the viewer in ambiguous ways. Although Rian Johnson’s debut film, Brick, is a low budget film, it’s cinematography, shot by Steve Yedlin, communicates and operates an extensive amount of the story. The neo-noir film frequently utilizes the camera to cooperate with the story and expand emotions of characters as well as the temperament of the scene. 

Brick is very obviously inspired by anime and its aesthetics. This is seen in the exaggerated emotions of the characters and the theatrical fight scenes. Johnson is a fan of the anime Cowboy Bebop, and those who have watched the show can spot reminiscent features within the film. The aesthetics, also, appear in the color grading of the film which maintains a dark, blue-toned appearance, much like the typical anime cinematography. 

The consistently awkward framing of the film may throw the average viewer off, but the details are all part of the intended atmosphere. The intense high and low angles demonstrate character identity and emotions such as anger, loneliness, and dominance. The framing, as well, offers unique character introductions or insight to relationships that relate directly to the plot. For instance, the pervasive amount of close ups allow the viewer to feel both physically and emotionally close to the character. Close ups of objects, too, are prominent to illustrate clues and support dialogue. 

The most notable component of the cinematography in this film is its lighting. Yedlin and Johnson chose practical lighting for the majority of the film which matches perfectly with each specific scene at hand and the environment the characters are in. As said previously, Brick maintains a dark appearance with striking blue tones and natural lighting. This decision creates an extremely unparagoned look that makes Brick stand out for what it is. There are a number of lens flares throughout the film which some may find immature, but this is Yedlin’s purpose. The use of the lens flare provides to the low budget, high school appearance that Yedlin aims for. As said by Austin McConnell in his commentary on Brick, “This isn’t a film that excels by perfection.” The attention to this detail is just the beginning of what’s impeccable about this film.

Make sure to see Rian Johnson’s latest directorial release, Knives Out, in theaters November 27.

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