HomeMovies“Infinity Pool”: Cinematography by Brandon Cronenberg and Karim Hussain
“Infinity Pool”: Cinematography by Brandon Cronenberg and Karim Hussain
February 11, 2023
Cinematographer Karim Hussain and writer-director Brandon Cronenberg explain how homemade experiments in Hussain’s living room led to the hallucinatory images of “Infinity Pool.”
Many cinematographers have close relationships with directors, but the bond between cinematographer Karim Hussain and filmmaker Brandon Cronenberg is particularly intimate. “We’re friends and neighbors, so the visual style for Infinity Pool was literally developed in my living room,” Hussain told IndieWire. Hussain and Cronenberg have been working together since Cronenberg’s 2012 debut Anti-Virus, and “Infinity Pool” represents the full fruit of the experimentation that began with the film — experiments with disorientation, subjective point of view, and how to create analog. mood using digital technology.
In “Infinity Pool,” married American tourists James (Alexander Skarsgård) and Em (Cleopatra Coleman) are staying at an upscale resort in an unnamed foreign country when James gets into a car accident and discovers the local justice system: anyone found guilty of a crime or executed , or they can pay a hefty fee to watch the two of them being created in a lab and then executed for them. Thus begins a series of increasingly confusing and impenetrable situations for James, whose terror, confusion and ultimately excitement is shared by the audience thanks to Cronenberg’s highly subjective visual style and sound design.
As is their usual practice, Cronenberg and Hussain cataloged the entire film in detail to ensure that every composition and lens choice was aimed at the specific emotional impact that is the visceral conveyance of the restlessness and anxiety experienced by James. “We’re starting with a kind of theoretical shot list that’s going to be much longer and more complicated than we actually have time for,” Cronenberg said. “The end result will change significantly as we get the locations (the film was primarily shot in Šibenik, Croatia), the sets and the cast, but it’s a good way to talk about the visual language of the film on a scene-by-scene basis.”
The unconventional shot structure created by Hussain and Cronenberg is essential to the dislocation and confusion that characterizes most of James’ adventures. “In traditional cinema, we shoot the wide shot, see where the characters are, and then cut to close-ups,” Hussain said. “This film is the opposite. We mostly start with nearby objects and slowly widen, so the question arises: “Where the hell are we? What is geography? Then we go to great lengths to show you where everything is. It’s a meticulously timed and engineered effect that conveys the character’s disorientation and basic anxiety.”
Lenses play a key role here as well, with Hussain relying on an extremely shallow depth of field to limit the perspective of James and the viewers. “Depth of field is used to add to the mystery because the blur behind James could be anything,” Hussain said, noting that at key moments he used a tool called Cinefade to change the depth of focus within a shot. “It’s a mechanical neutral density filter that’s synchronized to the iris of the lens, so you can change the depth of field without affecting the lighting.” The effect is particularly expressive in the scene depicting James’s disintegrating marriage, where it begins with James and Em in sharp detail, but gradually blurs her out, illustrating the rift between them.
One of the most striking visual motifs of “Infinity Pool” is the surrealistic, hallucinatory sequence created during provocative sequences where sex is mixed with terror and violence; Even more so than the rest of the film, we’re not always sure what we’re looking at or whether it’s supposed to be real or imagined. These sequences consist of wonderful blobs of color mixed with distorted body parts and flashes of light, reminiscent of the work of Stan Brakhage and other experimental filmmakers, and are the culmination of the work that Cronenberg and Hussain Hussain began in their living room recently. 10 years. “There’s zero CGI in these hallucination sequences,” Hussain said, explaining that he and Cronenberg manipulated the images on set with a split diopter with dichroic film wrapped around it. “The dichroic film changes color depending on the angle when you bend it, so we roll it onto the diopter and place it in front of a long lens while Brandon moves around it with a flashlight.”
The effect is essentially that of Cronenberg serving as a puppeteer of light and color, changing the properties of the image, sending it in and out of focus as he moves his flashlight. Some of the work was done on set, but then Cronenberg and Hussain took the footage into Hussain’s living room and projected it, then re-photographed it with diopters, dichroic film and the flashlight. “It’s a very rudimentary setup and there’s usually a 15- to 16-hour marathon of me manning the camera while Brandon paints the image over and over again,” Hussain said. “And then we got some stop-motion footage and special inserts that we reshot.”
The collage effect and organic approach give “Infinity Pool” a handcrafted quality that Hussain hopes takes full advantage of the strengths of digital and analog technologies. “I love the look and feel of film images, but you can have it digitally if you know what you’re doing,” said Hussain. “This film is the sum total of all the weird homemade experiments we do where we use analog techniques in a digital format. If movies were projected onto film, everything would be done photochemically, but that’s not reality. But there’s a lot you can do with digital that’s amazingly practical, in an analog way that can be more than just a filter on something. I think you can make that difference and when things happen in a more organic way. We did everything we could to give people a wild ride.”