I've been fairly busy lately and perpetually putting off my second look at the cinematography in Marvel's Daredevil. This past week I've been up in Nome, Alaska covering the Iditarod, but I wanted to write something up before Daredevil's second season was released on Netflix tonight... So I'm currently typing this on my phone during my flight back home. We'll see how that goes.
I focused a lot on the colors in Daredevil in my first post, which I still find very intriguing. However, this time around I wanted to examine broader aspects and techniques used by the very talented Matthew J. Lloyd. Let's get started.
POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT
Symmetry and pairs both have a clear presence in this episode. In some cases they are literal opposites, such as the shot of cards representing Daredevil and Fisk (bottom right). However it also can be indicative of allies, as it's used in the shot of Karen and Ben in the car (bottom left). This surfaces again in the shots I pulled from episode ten. I also love the usage of silhouettes in this episode. Matt Murdock's apartment is possibly my favorite set piece in the whole show and they use its lighting brilliantly (top right). The positioning of Matt and Stick is also interesting — Matt sitting lower in the frame while Stick is positioned higher, representative of their roles as learner and master, respectively. The yellow/olive light (Matt's power color) is subdued by the blues in this shot, further illustrating that Matt is not in charge. This lighting contrasts with the all blue (Fisk's power color) silhouette shot in the parking garage (top left), one of Fisk's regular haunts. This comes just after Daredevil has been overpowered by Owlsley and his taser, and the color blue lends itself to this.
In the top right we have a continuation of the theme of pairs with this somewhat-symmetrical shot of Fisk and Vanessa. Matthew J. Lloyd has a knack for wide shots, pulling through time and time again throughout this series. This shot naturally showcases the cooler color palette, as Fisk is in charge of the situation. The shot that really strikes me from this episode, however, is the shot of Karen through the window (bottom right). I'm becoming obsessed with shots like this, where the character is framed by a window or a doorway. Both Daredevil's and Jessica Jones' DPs do these shots quite frequently (I'm currently rewatching JJ for its cinematography and these shots jump out at me quite often). Daredevil and Jessica Jones utilize a lot of sets that encourage this sort of shot, with windows separating two different rooms indoors. It makes us feel like we're privy to something special as we look into the characters' private lives. There's also a great use of horizontal lines with the blinds, bringing in a film noir vibe that Jessica Jones would later capitalize on oh-so-well.
I don't have much to say about the shot of Leland Owlsley that I pulled from this episode. I do really like the lighting, but the color palette strays from my "yellow versus blue" theory (which is fine, I never claimed to be totally right on that).
This episode hits on a few points that I brought up previously. Once again, great use of silhouettes and shadows, as well as symmetry, in Matt's apartment (bottom right). Matt/Daredevil's power color is present, highlighting the edge of his face here. The shot of the trio at the Nelson and Murdock office (left) is another fascinating usage of a frame within a frame. I remember learning about this technique in film history class way back when, as it was used in Citizen Kane. It did not resonate with me then — funny how some things come back to you after they've had some time to process. Many of the shots in the bar (top right) were visually stunning and I remember having a hard time picking which one to tweet. This is a dark time for Matt, Karen, and Foggy as Mrs. Cardenas had just passed, once again aptly illustrated with the strong presence of the color blue here.
The contrast of these two similar yet different shots is spectacular. A very simplistic yet beautiful usage of wide shots by Matthew J. Lloyd, especially in the shot to the left. I love the vibrant color palette as two major villains, Fisk and Madame Gao, sit together (left). Conversely, the flashback shot of Matt and Foggy (right) is so dark and shadowy, even though it's recalling a happier time in their friendship. Both shots effectively carry on the trends of symmetry and pairs, with two vastly different results. I did not pick any other shots from this episode because these two worked together so perfectly.
Not much to say about these two shots. The color palettes are pretty self-explanatory, especially the shot in Matt's apartment (left). Evil has the upper hand, and the colors (or lack thereof) reflect that scenario. The blue and red lighting in the second shot (right) is wonderful. I believe this shot takes place in a bar — many of the bars in Hell's Kitchen seem to feature red light. I'm not sure why, but it works for me.
The power relationships of the colors get really blurred in this episode. The shots of Ben (bottom right) and Karen (top right) feature intense yellow/olive lighting, but neither of them are in charge. Karen just had a nightmare about Fisk, and Ben has discovered Fisk intruding in his own home. Fisk is temporarily gaining power in this part of the season, so it makes sense to have him infiltrate the safety of our protagonists. The menace of Fisk (left) is spooky. The way that he blends into the shadows really gives him a sense of power, especially coupled with the slightly lower angle on him.
These two shots were fun to tweet, because director and producer Steven DeKnight responded to me! He said that the two shots happened to be filmed on the same day. I found this incredibly interesting, since they're both consistent in tone and technique. The criss-crossing lines on the windshield (right) and of the fence (left) and somewhat similar to framing within the frame, especially the shot on the left. Both of these shots feature characters moving and shaking behind the scenes, making things happen to interrupt Fisk's plans. The inclusion of both the fence and the windshield, as mentioned in a previous episode, make this seem much more private to the audience. We are catching a secret glimpse into what the characters are doing.
All in all, this was a fun and educational exercise to undertake. I cannot wait to see what trends manifest in Daredevil's second season. Currently I am rewatching Jessica Jones for a similar purpose and tweeting out stills from that, so feel free to follow me on Twitter if that's something that interests you. I've also begun adding all of my stills from each episode to the reference library that I share with my creative partner Devin Cutter. It's a very useful tool for categorizing and sorting through reference stills, and it's exciting to see it grow. Check out his blog post on that here.
Until next time.
EDIT: Thank you to Marc Weilage for pointing out that I should also credit Tony D'Amore and Kevin Krout for their work as colorists on Daredevil, for without them this bold look would not have been possible.