7331-1/Overall stylistic approaches

Thierry Arbogast has a very defined style that I am very much fond of. For me his approach to light/shadow, camera angles and lenses that he uses creates a very natural look for the environment his films are set in. He almost constructs the reality of the film with the use of colour and camera angles.

Colour is the key to his style. He chooses a different dominant colour for every movie he makes and keeps it consistent throughout the whole film. The colour that he chooses reflects the environment the main characters live in and if a film concentrates primarily only on one character than a lot of the time the colour shows this character’s inner world. He does it in “Leon: The Professional” and “Angel-A”. “Angel-A” is a particularly interesting one because it was shot in black and white. And I can’t imagine it having any other colour apart from those two because the main character thinks only in black and white colours.

The movies that mostly stand out for me for Thierry Arbogast’s stylistic approaches are “Leon: The Professional” and “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc”.

Leon: The Professional (1994, Directed by Luc Besson)

In “Leon: the Professional” Thierry Arbogast creates a credit sequence that draws you into the story. The camera passes by the places that the main character is going to pass by. The camera movement is rather fast, going in, as going into the story and it stops on Leon’s hands. The next sequence shows Thierry’s stylistic approach to introducing the characters in this film. He goes into tight close ups with quite little depth of field. He highlights the significant parts that define the particular character as giving the audience bits and pieces of information so that they have a chance to make up their own mind about them. Generally when he does that the lighting is brighter and more contrasty than in the rest of the film and the lens choice is much tighter than in the rest of the film as well. He creates the same sequence when introducing the other main character as well and you never see main character’s face first. It’s either the back of their head, their hands or their hand holding a cigarette.
Thierry is not afraid of “hot spots” in this film. There are quite a few shots where you can see a hot spot on character’s face or head and the character is inside. You can clearly see where the light is coming from but he still leaves it in and doesn’t cut it. The same thing happens when the characters are outside on the sunny day. The only difference is that when the characters have a little over exposure when they are outside it makes perfect sense because the audience can see the sun.
Arbogast created a lot of unexplained shadows in this film but when I watched this movie for the first time I never noticed it, it seemed very natural. It seems as he liked playing with light and shadow in the places where the audience won’t notice that it’s not the way it is in real life.
Another stylistic approach that he uses in this film is wide angle lenses with a background action and the architecture that shapes the main action. He creates shots where you can see what’s going on at the background and this makes such shots richer in information. The framing in such shots feels a little awkward but it gives an audience a chance to choose where to look.
One of the things that define Thierry’s style is the choice of colour. Colours in “Leon the Professional” are primarily greens and yellows.
He uses tracking shots in a few different parts of the film. He usually does it when something is about to happen or when he wants to get closer to the character’s thoughts.

this is the end of the credit sequence and the first scene of the film where Leon is introduced. Tight close ups, long lenses, small depth of field, use of high contrast and yellow colour.

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999, Directed by Luc Besson)

“Joan of Arc” is very different from “Leon the Professional” in its stylistic approach but nevertheless you can still say that this is Thierry Arbogast’s style.

There are a lot of tight close ups with little depth of field in this film with not much background. It has a feeling of being placed in the character’s mind yet you can see a little bit of a background which makes you feel that the environment has an impact on the character’s thoughts. It helps the audience to have a small clue of what the character might be thinking about.
Joan of Arc placed in the centre of the frame for most of the shots. Thierry still uses wide lens to get a lot of background which shapes the main subjects that are in frame. He also places the camera quite close to the action so some of the characters’ faces look a bit distorted and comical; he does it below eye line as well which makes it look sarcastic (he never does it with Joan).
A lot of camera movements such as track ins, but Thierry doesn’t make any developing shots.
Primarily red and orange colours, a lot of shadows and great use of candle light to highlight the period. Arbogast uses high contrast lighting in this film with a lot of high angle shots when he shows Joan of Arc. It’s almost as he tries to show the audience the connection between her and God. Red and orange colours contrast with green and blue colours of nature.
Very frenetic camera movements when it comes to fighting scenes. Thierry is not afraid to mix hand held camera with still shots as he did it in a number of movies.

in this scene you can notice the way Thierry Arbogast uses the subject placement, the use of colours, having key lighting from one side creating some shadows on the other side of the face. The camera placement is close to the action and below the eye line.

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