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‘Gone Girl’ DP Jeff Cronenweth Makes Bold Moves for David Fincher

'Gone Girl' DP Jeff Cronenweth Makes Bold Moves for David Fincher

Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth agrees that “Gone Girl” is lighter in tone than his three previous films with David Fincher but no less psychologically complex. In fact, the marriage made in hell for Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike is really three movies in one: his story, her story and the third-person police procedural.

And weather factors in visually for Cronenweth with this “Punch and Judy” show. Manhattan is warm and romantic and Missouri is cold and oppressive, as their relationship spirals out of control. Cronenweth, therefore, adjusts color palettes, lenses and filters to infiltrate their emotional highs and lows and volatile states of mind.
“The romance and energy and success in New York is obviously the counterpart and setup for their demise, which happens in the Midwest, where she is out of her comfort zone,” says Cronenweth, the two-time Oscar nominee for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Social Network.” 

Indeed, the lack of an interpersonal relationship in this marriage gone bad, exposing us all in the process, is what makes “Gone Girl” so great, according to Cronenweth.”For the most part, it’s all just dialogue but engaging an audience visually and emotionally by dragging them through the sociopathic muck,” he continues.

One of the boldest choices, though. was how Fincher and Cronenweth played with the lighting when Pike shockingly murders Neil Patrick Harris. “We suggested a single light source built into the bed itself and decided to front light it and let it fall off into the rest of the room, which is beautiful, dark wood,” the cinematographer explains. “And it comes off as cosmetic as a fashion shoot might be in contrast to what’s happening. It sets up the audience to hopefully be surprised and we wanted you to experience the in your face assault. It was more complicated to shoot this way, and took a lot to rehearse and perfect.”

Another bold lighting decision is when the cops check out the abandoned mall. “Even though it’s only a two-minute scene, it was a technical challenge to shoot inside this real abandoned mall in Hawthorne, which is three stories high and where you can see three-hundred feet in either direction,” Cronenweth recalls. “There is no power in there and to light the whole mall would’ve been economically unfeasible, so we used pinpoints of light throughout and a couple of fires and practicals to convey the sense of scale and to appreciate the sub-culture of transients that lives there. It allowed the cops to basically light themselves with flashlights as they searched and scoped out where they were as they descend that escalator.”

It’s a far cry from the plume of sugar dust that falls in front of a bakery during a romantic encounter, which was shot at Universal with some CG and added a few plates for the Brooklyn Bridge.

“The two of them take these long linear paths of love, treachery and betrayal. It’s a psychological, narcissistic chess game. Ultimately, they’re probably not wrong for each other.”

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