Here’s a show that I had been putting off for months, being on the fence, and not really knowing who Rami Malek was–aside from the beautifully shot, yet awful Need for Speed.
After seeing a plethora of sponsored ads on my Facebook feed (apparently the algorithm knows I like independent movies and cyberpunk themes) I gave it a shot. From the opening scene I was hooked. The cinematography struck me as kind of odd and bucking in the face of traditional composition, but investing more time in the show made me realize, whether intentional or not, the images created make sense.
One giant reason for the obtuse composition is because the point of view is from the main character’s–Elliot Alderson’s–head. He’s a dude that works at a cyber security firm during the day and spends his nights dishing out vigilante justice via his hacking skills. He’s also taking morphine, as well as suboxone to counteract the addiction. I think that’s how it works right? And he’s a depressed dude, so the cinematography makes sense as we the audience are experiencing this world through him.
This premise gives a lot of leeway to compose shots that don’t make sense in the traditional form such as when characters are talking to each other yet positioned so close to the edge of the screen, eyeline looking directly at the edge of the screen, while having considerable negative space behind them. It looks like they’re talking to a wall, a trend I’ve been noticing start to pick up in the last several years. Disclosure: I use it, but I have no justifiable reason to.
Here are a few shots I’ve found interesting from episodes 1 – 3.
Not exactly Rule of Thirds, Malek’s eyeline is a little close to the bottom right of the frame but he also ends up looking at Christian Slater from this shot which changes the negative space behind his head dramatically. That “trend” I was talking about earlier.
An almost perfectly symmetrical shot. A mirroring shot. SPOILERS: (highlight to see) Reflection? Hmmmmmm. Since it’s all in his head, Mr Robot being in front of him is actually himself. Think Fight Club.
A circle of lawyers for Evil Corp. The pillar is the delineating line. Join them or not. Pretty literal.
Malek in a hospital bed. In the foreground, blurred out, are prescription drugs. He’s pushed down in the frame drowning in narcotics. Get it?
There’s that negative space again.
Notice the generous headroom. The color pallet is cold, muted colors, and blank white walls and furniture.
Here’s the trailer for the show.
Have you seen it? What do you think?