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Fade to Black:
Christoffer Boe

Sep 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Darroch Greer

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Photo: Jan Buus

For his first feature, Christoffer Boe wanted to make an unapologetically romantic film. Inspired by the great cinema romances of the '30s and '40s, he wanted to use the media of today to capture a story about love and its many possibilities. Reconstruction, winner of awards at Cannes, San Sebastian International Film Festival, and Chicago International Film Festival, is about a chance meeting between a photographer and the wife of a successful writer. They impulsively decide to spend the night together — in one of the most tasteful and refreshing sex scenes in memory — only to find their lives surreally and unaccountably altered the next day.

The story is layered and fragmented. Though striving for a heavy romanticism, Boe needed to give Reconstruction a new look to get a perhaps cynical and guarded audience to pay attention. “It needed that fragmented storytelling,” says Boe. “We're in this strange age where we can't say ‘I love you,’ at least not sincerely. … It's something where, if you simplify it, the whole point of trying to capture it would sort of make it dead. The fragmented thing can create a situation where the holes between the pieces of the puzzle can be filled with meaning, and thereby you get a greater sense of complexity or feeling.”

At the same time, Boe was insistent on shooting film. “I really wanted the depth of field of film, the depth of focus. And I wanted the color saturation, the color field that you can still only really get through film stock.” Though HD might have been a consideration, HD postproduction in his native Denmark was prohibitive for his budget. “Shooting digital you get the moiré, you get all these digital effects [that] I just don't like,” says Boe. “So it was very important to shoot on film, but then we wanted to make a very stylized movie and we wanted to shoot the characters in a very stylized, becoming-beautiful way.”

Boe solved the stylization problem with his cinematographer from his National Film School of Denmark days, Manuel Alberto Claro. They shot Super 16 on an Arri SR3 using three different stocks: Kodak 7274 200 ASA, Kodak 7263 500 ASA, and Fuji 8692 500 ASA daylight. Then, according to Claro, the film was scanned, color-graded, and digitally masked to Cinemascope. Boe adds that the scan was a simple one-light, and the team did no color correction, the opposite of today's trend to perform a digital intermediate.

“In the end,” Boe says, “we had the Super 16mm scanned to Digi Beta, and from that we graded it, but it wasn't [up-rezzed] to anything else. We shot it out from video resolution and thereby gained all that video texture.” They also pushed the emulsion for extra grain.

The film was shot almost entirely in available light. “The mantra was available lighting, but there are places — in the first café scene — we did have to change the light bulbs in the café so there was more lighting for the film,” he says. Using available lighting is not merely stylistic. It may come as no surprise, but Boe doesn't work with storyboards or set schedules. He likes to run and gun.

“We shot the whole thing in six weeks, and there's a lot of different setups. I like to shoot a lot of close-ups and totals and zooms. I really like to cover a scene, and having an overall lighting that's basically available light means that we can shoot 360 degrees pretty much everywhere.” For this, of course, he trusts and depends on DP Claro. “I like to play the whole scene through, but that leaves a lot of framing to do for the DP since they are moving and they're improvising,” Boe says.

“I feel very liberated having done this movie,” he admits. “A debut movie is something that you envision for many, many years. If you really want to make a movie, you constantly think about this first movie, so when you make it, you want to have everything in it.”

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