About a fortnight ago, Netflix added one of my favorite movies to its repertoire. That movie is “300.” Chronicling the Battle of Thermopylae, “300” has become one of the most visually recognizable (and critically acclaimed) films of the twenty-first century. Adapted from a comic book and based on real events that took place in Ancient Greece, Zac Snyder managed to marry these two influences to form a perfect union of realism and colorful fantasy. Much of the film’s success was due to its unique visual style which relied upon rustic set and costume design and a select color pallet of earth tones and reds. The sepia-like tone gave a sense of age to the setting and the reds spanned from the capes that the Spartans wore on their backs and the Tarantino-esqe blood spurts that was added in post production. There are scenes of the antagonist, the Persian King Xerxes, in which he’s lit with an other worldly glow and covered in piercings. This serves to heighten the drama and mythos of the film by pitting the grounded and gritty against a Godly opponent bathed in gold and excess.
A lot of scenes are intentionally made dark but also has a high dynamic range (see photo above). This further extentuates the set design, exposing the chiseled muscles and weathered that the Spartan soldiers bear. The lighting may have been accomplished by having many lights that are diffused and turned down to their lowest power setting. Based on the photo above, I assume that there’s little background lighting for the characters behind Leonidas, but Leonidas has kick lights behind him. All in all, it’s a great film if you like action, and an amazing film to study a fantastic example of visual style.