A small departure again today.
A few of my girlfriends have taken it upon themselves to educate me in baseball movies (I had seen a grand total of one baseball movie, ever in my life, I was in need) and that’s what we’ve been doing for the past few months. So last night was “42” the story of Jackie Robinson, the first black player in MLB. The movie itself isn’t stellar. It’s an interesting story during an interesting time in our history, but the execution is formulaic, predictable, bland with several points that were introduced, but never followed through. The beautiful thing about it though, is the cinematography. I’ve taken just enough film classes to be dangerous, and with my visual art background I’m usually distracted by things like costuming when I am not riveted on the story line of a movie.
Last night, because of the pedestrian execution, I noticed things that I probably wouldn’t have: Lighting, camera angles, voice quality, delivery and the way actors may have influenced their character’s demeanor. I was in the middle of these thoughts during the climax of the film (spoilers here), when Jackie has just taken his worst verbal racist beating from the opposing team’s manager (in a full stadium, center stage, amplified by the announcer). Jackie holds it together on the field, but then exits down the steps of the dugout and falls apart. This scene was expected and formulaic, like I said, but the visual precision here completely fascinated me. So I drew it.
And even without knowing the story, you can read so much into this visual. These are the things that struck me immediately:
-The number is prominent but upside down. And the number figures prominently throughout the movie.
-This is as low as you ever see him, both visually and figuratively. At the bottom of the stairs, below the dugout, below the field, inverted. Shards of his bat lay beside him to accentuate the brokenness of the moment.
-The dark figure is massive and adds so much to this scene. You know immediately who it is when watching, but in the still frame, it could be his oppressor or a god-like figure he is bowing to.
-Best of all, he is bathed in white light. Kudos to the lighting director here. It could have been golden (to reflect historical reference) or red (to reflect anger and blood) or even reflect the green/brown of the field above, but they picked stark, blinding white and it falls on him from above, from behind, partially obscuring his number. I don’t think that was an accident.