So first of all, Matthew Libatique is in my top ten of all-time favorite DPs. And for those that know me–no, it’s not because he also shot Iron-Man 1 & 2. I’m not that biased. Now this shot comes from an indie called Ruby Sparks starring Paul Dano and a new developing crush of mine, Zoe Kazan, who also, by the way, wrote the screenplay. And yes, I do know her and Paul are an item, I can still crush on her.
I like this shot in the movie not because it’s pretty or aesthetically pleasing or anything, but it just tells so much in a single wide composition. In context, Paul Dano’s character, Calvin-a one-and-done famous writer, watches as his brother Harry, (played by Chris Messina) reads over his latest manuscript. Coming over the top left of the frame, as Dano watches his brother read, explains the inquisitiveness and hesitant, and almost “stalking” nature, of his observation. The symmetry of the chairs are thrown off by the weight of Dano’s stalking which helps to lead the eye.
Of course I could be reading too much into it, but if shot another way with more OTS (over-the-shoulder) shots and positioning the characters directly in front of each other–though doable–would have minimized the emotion in Dano’s charcater in that shot, IMO.
There are a handful of shots like these as well such as when Calvin comes downstairs and hides behind a fireplace, framed directly in the middle of the shot. I love these very simple compositions, usually wide-shots, that explain so much. They’re usually flat, containing no depth, but is still pleasing to look at regardless.
As a bonus, i’m including a round-table discussion you might want to watch which includes Matthew Libatique as well as Roger Deakins, Jeff Cronenweth, Benoit Delhomme, Dion Beebe and Dick Pope.