Evil Cinematography: Interview with Petr Hlinomaz and Fred Murphy

Cinematographers Petr Hlinomaz and Fred Murphy tell IndieWire how their compositions and lens choices help create terror in Evil.

Robert and Michelle King’s supernatural procedural series “Evil” has long been one of the most terrifying shows on television and streaming (it premiered on CBS before migrating to its current home on Paramount+), as well as one of the most deeply philosophical.

The two aspects are inextricably linked as the series’ questions of faith, reason and whether evil comes from without or within are explored through stories featuring both paranormal and human monsters. Finding a visual continuation for the series’ ongoing tension between the pragmatic and the spiritual while maintaining its eerie, terrifying atmosphere is the job of cinematographers Fred Murphy and Petr Hlinomaz, whose bold approach to lenses and composition not only brings Evil to life has made one of the most thought-provoking and scary series on the air, but one of the most visually striking.

One thing that immediately sets Evil apart from most other shows is the vertical nature of its compositions, in which Murphy and Hlinomaz exploit the top and bottom of the frame in a way reminiscent of Night of the Hunter and Ida ” remind. two of the main influences of the series.

“There’s quite a bit of space at the top of the frame that fits the spiritual theme,” Murphy told IndieWire. “There’s this idea that we’re always looking up, that there’s something above us. The idea is that we ‘leave room for the angels,’ as the director of ‘Ida’ put it.”

In the imagery of Evil, however, the space above the characters isn’t just for the angels; There is often a sense that the unknown and hidden is more of a threat than a comfort, with the abstraction of the frames creating a sense of mystery that plays off the characters’ doubts and fears.

Marti Matulis as Manager Demon in Evil, Episode 8, Season 3, streaming on Paramount+, 2022. Credit: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+


Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+

Often the characters in “Evil” wrestle with what is actually happening and what they imagined, and the audience is invited to share his tenuous grip on reality through an impeccably modulated visual style that walks a fine line between realism and the supernatural.

Something always feels a little off in the most ordinary, everyday sequences, while even the most outrageous scenes involving demons have a certain connection to reality.

In terms of cinematography, the unique sensations that the show evokes for viewers are largely the result of Murphy and Hlinomaz’s philosophy on lenses.

“We tend to shoot with extremely wide lenses,” Murphy said. “When we start a scene, Petr and I immediately put on a 12 or 15mm lens. We don’t even ask. If it’s not a wide-angle lens, it’s a relatively long lens. We either shoot around 15mm or 100mm to 135mm, not much in between.”

While the filmmakers occasionally punctuate their scenes with long lens close-ups, most scenes are shot wide, creating disturbing effects of distortion while also providing a dynamic sense of space that gives the viewer a sense of just how many areas there are in which evil can hide. The effect is grandiose, but not easy for the cameramen.

“It’s a lot harder to light because you have so much space to work with,” Hlinomaz told IndieWire. “When you’re at 15 feet on a 75mm lens you see so little of the set that you can put light pretty much anywhere, but when you’re on a 18mm widescreen you see a massive amount of the set.”

Evil’s sharp, precise look is partly due to cinematographers preferring prime lenses over zoom lenses, which Murphy says have several advantages.

“We have a zoom, but we rarely use it,” he said. “Prime numbers look better, but they also force you to think about what you’re doing and why. Changing lenses always takes a little longer than people think, but it lets you understand why you’re using a 15mm lens instead of suddenly zooming out to 15mm, zooming back to 20mm and fishing around. It forces you to use the lens properly and think about the kind of space you’re trying to create.”

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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/08/evil-cinematography-1234748616/ Evil Cinematography: Interview with Petr Hlinomaz and Fred Murphy

Lindsay Lowe

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