Well, that didn’t take long. HBO’s WESTWORLD has only aired two episodes and already there’s a video essay dedicated to the show. That’s gotta be a record. But it’s not surprising, as WESTWORLD pulled the network’s strongest premiere ratings since the first season of TRUE DETECTIVE, and in terms of critical and commercial reception it’s pretty much poised to be the GAME OF THRONES of cybernetic-amusement-park series.
Like both those other mentioned shows, WESTWORLD is cinematic above all else, it’s a series stretched upon a broad canvas but composed of minute strokes, each of which conform to the big, beautiful picture. It balances the grandeur of the western with the paranoia of tech-driven sci-fi and incorporates the styles of both genres into its overall aesthetic, so you get sweeping panoramas of the big-sky landscape as well as claustrophobic close-ups in shadowy labs lit only by fluorescence. It’s a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of series filled with visual clues and sleights of camera that direct, redirect and misdirect, the sort of show where every square inch of composition matters, as well as positioning within the frame, which is why you might have noticed a lot of centralized subjects in the first two episodes, instances where the D.o.P.s – Paul Cameron for episode one and Brendan Galvin for episode two – draw our attention to the midpoint of the frame and the action, event, or character who is there. It’s a technique that wants you focused on the obvious subject but not oblivious to what’s going on in the periphery, it simultaneously distracts and attracts you from warring parts of the composition, as a result conjuring the best kind of confusion in a viewer: the kind that forces you to keep watching.
So if you’re keeping score, joserb93 from Vimeo is the first to drop a WESTWORLD essay, and he’s chosen the show’s centralized framing as his topic, taking every instance it occurs in the first two episodes and stitching them together into the following supercut. I like and think it’s telling that this first study is dedicated to WESTWORLD’s technical merits; when the behind-the-camera plotting is this thoughtful, what ends up on screen can’t help but captivate.
The center of Westworld from joserb93 on Vimeo.