2 years ago

A 36-minute video essay by Erlend Lavik called “Style in The Wire,” which carefully and thoroughly analyzes the various visual techniques used by the show’s directors over the course of its five seasons.

As Lavik notes, the visual style of The Wire is much less discussed than its multifaceted narrative, its wide range of complicated characters, and its social critique. But he makes a compelling case that the look of The Wire also contributes to the show’s power, and that the series’ directors established a visual approach that suited the show’s aims.

The primary influence on the show’s look is documentary filmmaking, particularly the work of Frederick Wiseman, Lavik says. In conversation scenes, for instance, the camera will often not switch to a speaker until that character has begun talking, as though the cameraman does not know in advance who will speak when. And the camera often “sneaks up” on a scene, creating the impression that we are eavesdropping on something actually taking place.

Even the 4:3 aspect ratio—which has, according to Lavik, become rare among cable’s prestige dramas—was chosen by Simon because it seemed less inherently cinematic, more “real.” (Lavik points out, however, that directors on the series often constructed a widescreen effect by shooting with a long lens across a blurry, horizontal object in the foreground, as in the scene with Mayor Carcetti and Bunny Colvin pictured above.)

Much of the show’s style comes from what it does not include: There are no dream sequences, for instance, which have become common on other prestige dramas (like The Sopranos andMad Men); only once does the camerawork overtly echo the psychological state of a character (after Ziggy shoots someone in Season 2); and the show’s only flashback—a brief, black-and-white shot in the pilot episode—was apparently dictated by network executives, who were worried viewers wouldn’t follow the story.

From that point on, the show trusted the audience’s intelligence enough not to rely on techniques that might have made the series more viewer-friendly, but which would have distracted from the show’s no-frills narrative style. (via)

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  11. michellelucida reblogged this from youmightfindyourself and added:
    "When everything is presented as climactic, nothing is climactic."
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  13. franziskrause reblogged this from craigsjunkdrawer and added:
    So much thought goes into good work, folks. Details, details, details …
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  16. wickedwitnesswizardry reblogged this from youmightfindyourself and added:
    The first stylistic/formalist critique of The Wire I have seen. And a genius analysis as well.
  17. arkadelphia reblogged this from youmightfindyourself and added:
    The first obligatory “Walter Likes the Wire” post I’ve had in a while.
  18. thevessel reblogged this from youmightfindyourself and added:
    thanks to
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