A Contempary Film Image

– A fragmented and subjective time-image

Cecilie Semec Mikkelson, inland norway university, The Norwegian Film School

This project aims to investigate the modern film image from a cinematographers point of view. Does it make sense to discuss a modern or contemporary film image as a cinematographic expression? And is it possible to teach modern or contemporary cinematography in film school? This is some of the topics I want to explore in my artistic reserach. As a cinematographer I collaborate with directors and visual artists. From my background in film I draw on classic film craft and visual storytelling. From my work in art and documentary, critical reflection and the search for meaning are part of building a cinematic expression. Several philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Rancier have discussed modern film. Deluzes Cinéma 1. and Cinéma 2. is a philosophical encounter with classical and contemporary film. Deleuze describes the classical American film as action-based, and the European film with directors such as Antonioni and Godard as more subjective and fragmented.

In my work as a cinematographer, there is room for classical images that convey depht, and more modern”flat” images. I find that images with deep perspective are suitable for expressing action and movement in film. The “flat” images express time / subjectivity / fragmentation / reflexivity.

This fragmented and subjective film image, will in my research be discussed as a modern or contemporary film image; a modern cinematography that reflects a different complexity than traditional classical film. To refine the theme of my artistic research I will discuss this in the light of issues I encounter through my work as a cinematographer. Topics that
will be explored and discussed are factors I believe affect the modern film image: The cinematographic image affinity with work in other arts, improvisation and the hand-held camera, and the new digital devolpment.


Creating film thematise the creative collaboration and the relationship with “the other”. Together with director, I will examine improvisation, the long takes and the heavy technique vs. the new and lighter digital film cameras. How does this affect the modern cinematograpgy and the image? What practical and technical challenges will we encounter? What aesthetics will we formulate and develop?


A strong desire of many directors is to keep “the film alive” faced with a heavy film machinery. Questions that will be explored are: How to work with actors and improvisation as a cinamtographer? Is it possible to leave behind shotlists and storyboards? What happens when the actor decides where the camera should move, not the framing where the actor should move? This work is made clear especially in the face of the hand-held camera, with free actors without the “floor-marks”. Daring reality as a cinematographer can be technically and practically daunting.


A feature common to several of the directors I work with is the long take. What does this imply for directors, actors and cinematographer to work with long takes or extreme long takes made possible by the new digital development? The long take explores time differently than traditional edited scenes. The theory is that editing reveals that we are looking at a film. As one director stated: “When you talk with a person you do not jump around in the room and see this person from different angles.” What you seek with the long takes are presence and authenticity. In my work, I will explore the long takes which have traditionally often been static and a tripod based image. Can the long take be a hand-held longtake? How does that affect the work of the cinematographer?


Film making is a collaborative process. As a cinematographer I often discuss the style and ideology and in broader sense the philosophy of film with other directors, not cinematographers. The critical reflection and discourse that is taking place between director and cinematographer is a fundamental core in the process of making film. The names of my collaborators in this regard are writer and director Dag Johan Haugerud, visual artists such as Bodil Furu and Ane Hjort Guttu.