[WATCH] ‘THE NIGHT OF’ AND HOW TO FRAME A CRIME STORY

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Like the first season of MR. ROBOT, THE NIGHT OF on HBO didn’t just succeed because of a deviously unreliable narrative and jaw-dropping performances, but also because of the cinematic grace with which directors Steven Zaillian and James Marsh put it together. There is a style at play in the series not often found on television, one that combines noirish lighting with a thriller’s cinematography – all off-angles and slow, slight camera movement – and in particular one that employs framing as a kind of visual hierarchy that juxtaposes characters against one another, themselves, and the narrative.

In the following video from Zackery Ramos-Taylor, the “rule-of-thirds” grid has been placed over a supercut of scenes from the series to show how they are played against the empty space and other people or objects in the field of view.

What occurred to me watching this is how the further-mired each character is in their personal turmoil – Naz standing trial, Stone going to trial, Box seeking truth – the further down in the frame they are presented; at their lowest they are entirely confined to the bottom three grids, and at their best they are shown full body with their heads just breaking the top third of the frame, like they are barely keeping themselves above water.

This is a fascinating look at the invisible story on the surface of the one we see, and augments the series’ prestige and resonance.

The Night Of – Framing a Crime Drama from Zackery Ramos-Taylor on Vimeo.

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist