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David Fincher’s Mank: cinematography

December 13, 2020
Mank cinematography

I’ve just seen the last movie directed by David Fincher. Mank was released in streaming for Netflix as exclusive in a period with cinema totally closed due to coronavirus pandemia. First of all I’d like, obviously, to watch it in theaters with a big screen. In this article I’m talking about cinematography in Mank. What about this movie?It Is the story behind the creation of a cult: Citizen Kane by Orson Welles. Of course Mank is for few people, a classic “niche film” published in a popular platform for a big and varied audience.  The story is about the creation of the script of Citizen Kane by Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) a talented screenwriter with gambit and alcohol problems. The movie is a bit flat and boring in my personal opinion. Not the best for a director as David Fincher. By the way I’d like to talk about photography. The DOP is Erik Messerschmidt that worked with Fincher in Gone Girl and Mindhunters series (Netflix).

Mank – cinematography

The aspect I loved of Mank’s cinematography is how light enters in the scene through windows as well as silhouettes imitating noir films and the same Citizen Kane by Orson Welles. In an interview Erik Messerschmidt declared that he was inspired by movies as The big combo (John Alton as cinematographer), The great sleep with Humphrey Bogart and “more recently” Manhattan directed by Woody Allen. Looking to the present I have in mind two movies in black and white with a similar style: Roma by Alfonso Cuaron (Netflix) and The artist by the french director Michel Hazanavicious. Messerschmidt used a digital sensor in 8K to obtain the highest resolution possible. Digital sensor instead of classic film is more versatile and allows to obtain also more depth of field without using particular artifices; Fincher and Messerschmidt wanted to imitate the Citizen Kane’s photography. To obtain more sharpness he used a BW digital sensor, without colors filter (Bayer matrix), something similar to a solution adopted by Leica in photography with his Monochrome series.

Mank – looking at frames

Now looking at some frames you can see the parallelism between Mank’s photography and Citizen Kane’s one. In that particular case you can see silhouettes and light. The following two images are taken from Mank:

Mank cinematography
Mank (2020) directed by David Fincher Credit: Netflix
Mank cinematography
Mank (2020) directed by David Fincher Credit: Netflix

The following two frames are taken directly from Citizen Kane:

Mank cinematography
Citizen Kane by Orson Welles
Mank cinematography
Citizen Kane by Orson Welles

Examples of complex multi-layer scene with a great depth of field.

Mank cinematography
Mank (2020) directed by David Fincher Credit: Netflix
Mank cinematography
Mank (2020) directed by David Fincher Credit: Netflix

The original inspiration in Citizen Kane with examples of multi-layer scene in focus. Look at the complexity and elegance of the whole scene.

Mank cinematography
Citizen Kane by Orson Welles
Mank cinematography
Citizen Kane by Orson Welles

Below the most famous frame from The Big Combo, noir dated 1955 with the photography of John Alton, an inspiring movie in the making of the Mank for cinematography.

Mank cinematography
The Big Combo, property of Allied Artist production

Below other interesting frames taken from Mank.

Lights and shadows in the interior.

Mank cinematography
Mank (2020) directed by David Fincher Credit: Netflix
Mank cinematography
Mank (2020) directed by David Fincher Credit: Netflix

Point of view of camera from below to magnify the MGM’s president.

Mank cinematography
Mank (2020) directed by David Fincher Credit: Netflix

While the following frame is a famous image taken from Citizen Kane, a classic POV from below.

Mank cinematography
Citizen Kane by Orson Welles

 

That’s all folks

 

 Stay well, have always light in your life

Best, F.S

 

read also:

Cinematography part 1

Complementary colors: cinema, photography and art

Red in art, painting and cinema here

Orange in cinema

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Social classes and racism: street photography and cinema

Underground: street photography, street art and cinema

The midnight meat train: cinema and street photography

The wonderful photography in Federico Fellini’s movies

Blade Runner 2049 cinematography

 

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