Craft Talking 12 Years a Slave

The visual power of 12 Years a Slave derives from a juxtaposition of horror and beauty that director Steve McQueen calls “Goya-esque.” It immerses us in the totality of Solomon Northup’s experience, a brutal inhumanity that nonetheless took place on gorgeous plantations. Production designer Adam Stockhausen, cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, costume designer Patricia Norris, and editor Joe Walker collaborated on this rich tapestry, which has helped make 12 Years a Slave the best picture Oscar frontrunner.

“The landscape in Louisiana is overwhelming,” says Stockhausen. “It’s all around you and it’s beautiful and depressing at the same time. As Solomon goes into the swamp, you realize by the size of the dogs and everyone that would be after him, how separated he really is, and the completely dangerous landscape out there.”

“By making it beautiful, it makes it palatable for the audience,” Bobbitt adds. “If we had made it ugly and gritty and desaturated, I don’t think the audience would stay with it. There would be no hope and the look comes from the story. These plantations have an inherent natural beauty and to defy that would be a lie.”

Walter continues: “There’s a really odd thing, which was the first shot of Michael Fassbender reading the Bible as Epps, and so there’s a sense of continuity with Michael because I cut all three of Steve’s films. It was a sort of Talisman and this strange reincarnation ritual.”

Read the rest at TOH/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Books, Cinematography, Clips, Costume, Editing, Movies, Production Design, Tech

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