BROADCHURCH: Investigating Elegant Cinematography | Video Essay

BROADCHURCH: Investigating Elegant Cinematography | Video Essay


we are living in a golden age of television as an aspiring director cinematographer editor myself it’s been fascinating to see how cinematic so many TV shows have become in the past decade and while I always thought I would work on movies when I was a kid more and more now I realize working on an artful TV show would be just as big an honor there’s a lot of great television out there right now Breaking Bad Game of Thrones Sherlock stranger things house of cards but the show I want to zero in on today is the BBC crime drama broadchurch which started in 2013 and ended in the spring of 2017 for starters broadchurch would be a wonderful show even without all the technical achievements we’re about to discuss it’s well written well acted and the way it portrays the negative side of humanity while still being uplifting and hopeful is just seamlessly executed I don’t want to get into too many specifics but the show stars David Tennant and Olivia Colman as detectives in a tiny seaside town who were tasked with investigating the murder of an 11 year old boy Danny Latimer whose body was found on the beach it’s thoroughly emotional though funny at times and the eighth episode length of the series maintains the pace perfectly more than anything however broadchurch is beautifully shot the cinematographer matt gray hadn’t done anything I’d heard of before this spare for an unaired pilot of Sherlock and some episodes in an Oliver Twist miniseries but either way his style certainly has an air of experience to it while still remaining a tad experimental through and through he’s clearly been influenced by other more recognizable cinematographers and there might even be a little Roger Deakins in there sometimes the cinematography of broadchurch has several layers of artistry to it which all work in tandem to create something that feels thoroughly organic and unique the shots aren’t hiding they absolutely call attention to themselves from time to time but while sometimes that might take you out of a story here it draws you closer to the meaning one of my favorite things about the cinematography in broadchurch is how flex the tonal dissonance of the situation it presents a young boy has been murdered and a town has been left in mourning but it’s all set against the backdrop of this idyllic seaside community beautiful cliffs gorgeous countryside and a dazzling ocean the beauty of the landscape feels like it contradicts the gravity and disparity of the situation and that’s because it’s supposed to Matt gray does a great job of highlighting this paradox in his shot composition the characters often feel like small pieces in a puzzle all framed against a prominent and dominating backdrop that feels larger than they are something beyond their control speaking of shot composition the most unique thing about broadchurch is just that for starters the show uses the rule of thirds but manipulates it in ways that most other shows wouldn’t even attempt to in scenes between two people periodically the characters standing on the left of the conversation is in the right side of the frame and the character on the right side of the conversation is in the left side of the frame I’m actually doing something similar to this in my short film long box breakup though not nearly as well of course more importantly though the characters and broadchurch are frequently placed with an incredible amount of negative space to one side of them or above their head this choice makes for an ardent motif throughout the entire series a motif of emptiness and completion the negative space which constantly accompanies the characters in the show especially the immediate family of Danny invokes the void his absence is left in the community this show is the polar opposite of the picturesque symmetrical always centered Wes Anderson style instead it embraces the inequalities and imperfections and shows how the death of a loved one can leave everything off-kilter not to mention so much of the cinematography and broadchurch is shot with an incredibly shallow depth of field the characters are usually in focus but everything behind them is always a blur the constant haziness of the world the show constructs really gives the audience a sense of the claustrophobia the characters are feeling they’re trapped in their circumstances with everything around them fuzzy and unclear completely unsure of who they can trust anymore and not even certain if this tragedy is all real the shallow depth-of-field and its sense of captivity is accompanied by an even clearer motif in the that cements that idea the use of windows and frames within frames constantly on broadchurch the character is most directly affected by the death of Danny are pictured behind glass or in a reflection unable to break free and held back from the full understanding of what’s happened frequently the framing and staging of the characters literally boxes them in or walls them off from the outside world leaving them completely alone with their thoughts it’s on the nose but it works I mentioned reflections a minute ago and they’re a big part of this effect too I’ve actually done a whole separate video on the meaning of mirrors and reflections in general but suffice to say the constant use of them in this show really gives a sense of how distorted the town of broadchurch has become in lieu of Danny’s death and how the characters are being forced to look themselves in the mirror for the first time in a while could I have done this murder given the right circumstances that’s the question in the minds of many of the characters throughout the season and the reflections serve as a great reminder of it to say anything more about broadchurch would be to say too much above all the show is suspenseful and thought-provoking and it’s really a journey you need to go on yourself instead of taking my word for it so by all means check out season 1 of broadchurch as soon as you can it’s on Netflix and only eight episodes after all but as you watch the show be sure to take note of how the filmmaking serves this story it’s not flashy or overdone or style over substance instead broadchurch is a blend of everything great about artistry and it truly draws the audience deeper into the themes in ways that are both nice to look at and great to ponder [Music]

60 thoughts on “BROADCHURCH: Investigating Elegant Cinematography | Video Essay”

  1. You wanna be a Director, Cinematographer and an Editor??? Damn, you'll be set in the film industry cause you'll never run out of work lmao

  2. Broadchurch isn't the BBC, it's ITV. But lets hope this style continues to Doctor Who as Chibnell brings in a new team.

  3. Awesome, I love Broadchurch! The writing and the acting are great, but the visuals and the soundtrack are what really blew my mind when I first saw it!

  4. Awesome video. Might check out this show now. I saw Walter Mitty the other day and I loved it, so I can totally trust you haha.

  5. Thanks for clarifying that Broadchurch isn't BBC, guys! It aired here on BBC America though, so I was ya know, half-right.

    Be sure to send HP1 cartoons or art to my Twitter, @blockbustedpod, to get it featured on the channel!

  6. Have you seen the BBC show Peaky Blinders? It is about an illegal family business in Birmingham after the 1st world war and stars Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy. As it’s one of my favourite shows I’m very excited for season 4.

  7. There is a tv show on in Britain that is trying to replicate the Broadchurch atmosphere and camerawork but it is written so terribly and shot so shoddy that it is laughable. In series 3 of Broadchurch they handle the subject matter of rape and handle it very successfully, this show is focused on the same subject matter but throws it right in your face and has the most cliche dialogue about it. No characters are likeable and they had the opportunity to make an interesting statement but even failed to do that and went the obvious and boring route. The show is called Liar and it just proves that writing is really everything.

  8. This was the one time I turned the volume for your intro. And this video is great! By the way, I credited you in this video I made. It took three months. Thanks and please enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIdZUipj0rI

  9. Hi I saw your comment from ProZD video XD
    And can you do me a favor?
    Can you checkout Call of Origin newest video please! 🙂

  10. Yes, good tv shows rival and even surpass some movie's cinematography. Don't forget Broadchurch's production design which plays a significant role. Good point on the negative space effect which is typically used in most movies to denote that something is about to happen there. Well done and keep up your film making!

  11. This is an excellent video essay. Broadchurch was an outstanding series, I was riveted by every episode. I am often aware of how mirrors and reflections are used in tv and cinema. I first noticed this device when I saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry's reflection is used many times in different ways. I have just discovered your channel and I am enjoying your opinions and insights.

  12. I haven't seen the second season (wasn't as interesting to me as the first one) but I remember watching it as it was being aired on BBC America and loving it. The plot is so subtle and capturing and i didn't realize how much the visuals play into that.

  13. Excelent. I don't know why some have to compare and worst it to minimize this series versus Mr. Robot, if Broadchurch was first and it's a masterpiece.

  14. Loved,loved,loved this video! If I may, I would love it if you gave sense8 a go. It's a beautiful show on Netflix, its cinematography is something special and I would love someone who knows about this stuff to comment on it. Great essays, keep them coming!

  15. Really enjoyed this video. I think the first series of Broadchurch is pretty much perfect. I feel like an entire video could be dedicated to various aspects including one of my favourites: the music. I've been listening to the Olafur Arnalds score solidly since the show's release.

    Another British show I'd love to hear your thoughts on is Luther. The cinematography is stunning and I often notice characters being positioned in the extreme right corner of the frame. Especially Luther whenever he enters the lift to his flat. Has a really visceral/off-kilter feeling. Mr Robot does it too.

  16. Broadchurch could have easily become some cheap "investigation" series, like we've seen so many before. But it chose to focus on the characters, their minds, their interractions with each other or the human nature confronted to dramatic events. Broadchurch is phenomenal just for that.

  17. The score in Broadchurch is so amazing. It's great how we can both find what we love about this show. You find the cinematography, I find the music composition. I love it.

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