15th February 2018,
– First few scenes there is a typewriter – establishing what the entire movie/story is about from the get go.
-A strong and reoccurring use of lens flair (unusual to be seen in Spielberg’s films) from the start.
-First few scenes focus in on a briefcase with little camera movement to the characters’ faces making it the focal point, also reinforcing the secretive nature of what is happening,
-The scan light in the printer machine illuminates a character’s face in a cold, eerie blue/white colour while he is printing off the Pentagon Papers in secret. This is a close up camera shot which forces the audience to read his expression closely. During this scene there are flashbacks going over facts through history while the papers are being printed.
-Cut to black screen with ‘Washington D.C. in a particular typeface then fades out to next scene (emphasising the newspaper theme/graphic design)
-As you can see above, there were constant visual references to the subject matter of the entire story placed in scenes (newspapers) in both the foreground and background of the mise-en-scène.
-One thing I noticed while watching the character interactions on screen between Kate’s character (Meryl Streep) and others was that, during one on one conversations, some conversations involved over the shoulder shots and some were a wider medium shot of both characters in frame looking straight at each other. As I got to know the characters and their stories, I have guessed that this is maybe a technique used to show how close/intimate the characters are depending on which shot was used or how open the characters were being with each other (the second technique being the more intimate set up).
-During moments of tension and hurriedness, e.g. the scene with an intern character running to the New York Times building on an errand, the camera is jerky to illustrate the anxiety of the characters and the nature of the scene.
-I thought it was interesting to note that Kate’s character always was carrying around a heavy briefcase and a pile of books. There are even two scenes where she wakes from a nap, emphasising how hard she is working and how big a business she is carrying.
-There are quite a few high/low shots where Kate is sitting down and male characters are standing above her throughout the movie emphasising her lack of self-belief and her male counterparts negative view of her. It’s interesting to note that by the end of the movie there is a key moment where she moves from this kind of shot while sitting, to a standing position where she is equal with all around her (also emphasised in the camera shots).
-During a scene at a small party at a house, there is a strong contrast between the men and women’s topics of conversation; the men are arguing about politics, whereas the women are discussing politely the subjects of women’s fashion and books to read. This distance in topic of conversation is emphasised through the physical distancing of the two gender groups splitting into different rooms altogether.
-There are a few scenes where men from the Washington Post tend to be in threes while exchanging information/ learning new information together. The scene which comes to mind is the one where three men are rushing out to buy the latest New York Times newspaper to read pages from the pentagon papers. There is a shot of the three of them in a line, all reading with unflinching attention while the cold, early morning wind blows away “unimportant” pages from their hands.
-During a wide shot of a character from the Washington Post on a public phone making a furtive phone call, we can see two police cars ride by and make siren noises creating dramatic irony as the character is doing something which is questionable in terms of the law.
-I thought it was interesting to note that Kate’s character often wears gold, or shades of yellow throughout the movie. It made her stand out in the crowd when surrounded by men in dark suits. I felt this helped create the character’s presence on screen and made it clear to the audience that she was a force to be reckoned with; her inner strength so to speak.
-During an extremely tense moment in the movie, the camera tracks in a very fast motion in a 360 around Kate after she finds out she has the decision to publish more of the pentagon papers but could go to jail if her source is the same as the New York Times’. This adds to the distressing and emotional nature of the scene.
-During the interoggation between the Washington Post’s lawyer and one of the key workers who got the source for the Pentagon papers, there is a very strong lens flair over them both- creating almost a spotlight. This adds to the extremely tense nature of the scene.
-The importance of the subject matter of the entire story is highlighted by extreme close up shots of the printing presses in the Washington Post. The fast paced cuts from one stage of the printing process to the next and the building music all helps to build up tension in the scene.
-When Kate gives the go on printing the pentagon papers, we as the audience see a character typing on a typewriter in the offices above the printing presses and being shaken by the force of the printing going on below. This could be said to represent how big a story they were printing.
-Lastly, Kate’s love of the paper and the Washington Post can be seen in the last few scenes when she watches quietly the process in the printing press rooms.
After watching the movie in the cinema, I decided to research Steven Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski’s take on the creation of the film. I found it interesting that when I was watching the movie, there were filming techniques used which I’d never really seen used in Spielberg’s films so it instantly made me question if he had hired a different cinematographer. However, after watching the interview above, Kaminski expressed his wish for filming The Post like someone else had shot it and it all made sense.
This is just a snippet from a really interesting interview with Janusz Kaminski:
There’s no explosions, there’s no big set pieces, but one of my favorite shots in the movie, towards the end, features a bunch of men huddled around a table while Kay is carefully considering a decision. And that plays out with the tension and the thrills of a big action set piece. I was wondering if you could talk about how that shot came together and the blocking and staging of it, because I think it’s really terrific.
KAMINSKI: You know there is a painter who Steven loves. He owns several paintings by him. He was considered to be more of an illustrator when he was doing illustrations—the name will come to me later but maybe too late. But you know there are several images that Steven has of this painter and they’re always very—men caught in the moment of importance. So we didn’t use that painting as the blueprint but there is a certain aesthetic that Steven has and we don’t fight our aesthetics, you know, and Steven’s aesthetics are such that like, shot of relevance. So you have Kay sitting at the desk with men huddling around and there’s a conversation with Kay and Tracy Letts. There’s this tremendous sense of importance and a little secrecy. What are these men talking about? It must be important because they all huddle in their little group and it feels a little spacey at first, but you forget that really quickly because of the significance of what they’re saying.
It was a great way to space the scene because the content was so important. It’s woman against men and men are standing. It’s not really even the men against the woman, it’s the attitude of that particular time period. Men were in the condition of decision-making and women were always subservient to the men and often, if not always, serving position to support the men and make the men better in terms of facilitating the needs of the men. In this case, Kay is making the choice, very strong choice, by saying, “This is not your paper, this is my paper and this paper in fact is not even my paper. It belongs to the citizens and I’m going to make the decision I’m going to make.” But before she makes that decision, there is a whole big, beautiful conversation. It’s a straight, wide shot, as you stated. And it’s really great because you see all the participants, not necessarily making the decision but being affected by the strength of Kay and her ability to not finally step up to her position, but making the choice to be less of a subservient or what’s expected of her and become a stronger leader.
Consequently, she stands up and the rest of the dialogue is delivered with her standing, which means she’s not in the lower position of the frame, she’s equal to the man as a visual metaphor and now she’s going to make a decision in terms of how she’s going to conduct herself as an owner of the newspaper.
An interesting selection of interviews with the main cast and crew which was both informative and entertaining! It’s always fascinating to hear the reasoning behind shots with the director himself.