For certain key scenes, super-minimal lighting schemes were employed to great effect. A particularly impressive example of this strategy is the filmmakers' sepulchral rendering of the Madison home's main hallway, which has a foreboding quality reminiscent of the work of one of Lynch's favorite painters, Francis Bacon. Achieving this look required some deft interplay between the various crewmembers.
"Fortunately, the hallway was a setting we could control, even though we were shooting at a real house," says Deming. "Patty Norris and her crew physically altered the structure, making the hallway as long as possible. She also helped me by putting Bill Pullman in dark clothes, and by painting the walls a color that wouldn't reflect too much light. To cap things off, we hung a black curtain over the windows at the end of the hall."
Because the building's ceilings were so low, Deming opted to light the space primarily with a single, slightly diffused 2K zip light suspended directly above the camera. He used cutters and black wrap to perfect the angle of the light, relying on the high-speed 98 film stock to do the rest. "The 98 can really pick up details in the dark, so I knew that we were in trouble if the end of the hallway didn't disappear to the naked eye," says Deming. "David feels that a murky black darkness is scarier than a completely black darkness; he wanted this particular hallway to be a slightly brownish black that would swallow characters up. After we had finished the shot and sent it to the lab, I called the color timer and told him, 'As Bill Pullman walks down the hall, he should vanish completely, because if I see him down there I'm never going to hear the end of it.'"
The utilization of Kino Flos lent an eerie ambience to other sequences in the house. In one shot, Bill Pullman steps into a hallway so dark that he seems to be walking through a wall. A single Kino Flo created the mere hint of depth along the sides of the hallway entrance. The next scene shows Pullman gazing at his reflection in a mirror within the tomb-like confines of a small room. "The spot where David hung the mirror was only about six feet high," Deming says. "We put a Kino Flo up above, gelled it with chocolate and cut it severely. It was the only thing I could use to keep Bill from looking too ghoulish. We shot that the first day, and when it came up in dailies I thought it was underexposed. After the lights in the screening room came up, I said to David, 'We need to do that mirror shot again.' He looked at me as if I were crazy and replied, 'No way, I love that shot!'
Equally spectacular is a later shot of actors Getty and Arquette engaging in their nocturnal desert love scene, illuminated only by the white-hot headlights of a car. "That situation involved things you're taught never to do - front-lighting and overexposing," says Deming. "When we talked about the love scene in prep, David said he wanted the actors to be glowing. He didn't want to see any details except their eyes, noses, mouths and hair. We lit them with tungsten Pars which were supposed to simulate the headlights of their car, and we overexposed by about six-and-a-half stops. The final effect is very surreal; David knew it was not the 'technically correct' way to do things, but it worked for the movie."
The cinematographer notes that Lynch often comes up with his most inspired cinematic riffs on the set, sometimes while a sequence is being shot. "A lot of ideas would come up on the day of filming, after he'd gotten together with the actors and blocked out the scene," Deming asserts. "There's always a certain amount of logistical preparation, but when you're working with David you have to be ready for anything."
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