Capturing Emotions: Matteo Martignago’s Cinematic Journey into Character

Capturing Emotions: Matteo Martignago’s Cinematic Journey into Character
  • How do you approach cinematography to authentically capture and convey the emotions of characters in a narrative?

I start by closely collaborating with the director and actors to understand the emotional beats and character motivations of each scene. Then, I use a variety of cinematographic techniques, such as framing, lighting, camera movement, and lens choice, to visually express the internal struggles, conflicts, and growth of the characters. By focusing on subtle nuances in facial expressions, body language, and interactions between characters, I strive to create a visual language that resonates with audiences on an emotional level and enhances their connection to the story and characters.

  • Can you share insights into your process of visually representing character arcs and emotional development?

I usually start by identifying key moments in the script where characters undergo significant emotional changes or growth. Then, I work closely with the director to develop a visual language that mirrors and enhances these changes, using lighting, composition, and camera movement to reflect the internal journey of the characters. For example, I may use shallow depth of field and close-up shots to convey intimacy and vulnerability during moments of emotional revelation, or employ high contrast lighting and dynamic camera movement to underscore moments of conflict or resolution. By aligning the visual storytelling with the emotional beats of the narrative, I can create a more immersive and engaging viewing experience that resonates with audiences on a deeper level.

  • How does cinematography contribute to character development, and what role does visual language play in shaping character narratives?

Cinematography plays a crucial role in character development by visually expressing the inner thoughts, feelings, and motivations of the characters. Through framing, composition, lighting, and camera movement, cinematography can reveal subtle nuances in character behavior, relationships, and dynamics that deepen audience understanding and empathy. Visual language, such as color palettes, visual motifs, and symbolic imagery, can also play a significant role in shaping character narratives by reinforcing themes, motifs, and character traits. For example, warm, soft lighting may evoke a sense of warmth and intimacy in scenes depicting familial relationships, while harsh, angular compositions may convey tension and conflict in scenes of betrayal or deception. 

  • Can you share experiences where cinematographic choices enhanced the audience’s connection to characters on an emotional level?

Certainly. In one project, we used subtle changes in framing and composition to enhance the audience’s connection to the protagonist’s emotional journey. For example, during moments of introspection and self-discovery, we employed wide, expansive shots to convey a sense of freedom and possibility, while during moments of vulnerability and insecurity, we used tight close-ups and shallow depth of field to create a sense of intimacy and introspection. These cinematographic choices allowed audiences to experience the protagonist’s emotional highs and lows more intimately, fostering a deeper connection and empathy with the character’s journey.

  • How do you balance the technical aspects of cinematography with the emotional demands of a scene?

While it’s important to understand the technical elements of cinematography, such as lighting ratios, exposure, and camera settings, it’s equally important to remain sensitive to the emotional needs of the scene and the actors. This may involve adapting lighting setups, framing compositions, and camera movements to better serve the emotional beats of the scene, or improvising on set to capture spontaneous moments of emotion and authenticity. By maintaining a flexible and responsive approach to cinematography, I can ensure that technical considerations serve the emotional needs of the scene rather than detract from them.

  • Can you discuss instances where prioritizing emotional storytelling influenced technical decisions on set?

Absolutely. In one project, we encountered a scene that required capturing a character’s emotional breakdown in a confined space with limited lighting options. Rather than relying on traditional three-point lighting setups, we opted for a more naturalistic approach, using practical sources such as candles and flashlights to create a sense of vulnerability. We also shot handheld to enhance the immediacy and intensity of the scene, allowing the camera to move freely and fluidly with the character’s emotional journey. 

  • Can you share insights into creating visual motifs that align with character themes or arcs?

Creating visual motifs that align with character themes or arcs involves identifying recurring visual elements or symbols that resonate with the character’s journey and incorporating them into the cinematography. This could be anything from specific colors, objects, or locations that hold symbolic significance to the character’s development. For example, a character struggling with inner turmoil may be consistently framed against stark, angular compositions, while a character experiencing growth and transformation may be bathed in warm, soft light. By establishing and reinforcing visual motifs that mirror the character’s emotional journey, cinematography can deepen audience engagement and enhance the overall storytelling experience.

  • How do you use visual language to convey relationships between characters, whether familial, romantic, or antagonistic?

Visual language can be a powerful tool for conveying relationships between characters, whether familial, romantic, or antagonistic. For example, framing characters in close proximity or using shallow depth of field can convey intimacy and closeness in familial or romantic relationships, while framing characters in opposition or using harsh lighting and angular compositions can convey tension and conflict in antagonistic relationships. Additionally, employing visual motifs such as shared gestures, recurring visual elements, or symbolic imagery can reinforce the bond or dynamic between characters. By leveraging visual language to communicate the nuances of interpersonal relationships, cinematography can enrich character dynamics and deepen audience engagement with the narrative.

  • Can you share experiences where the cinematography played a pivotal role in portraying complex interpersonal dynamics?

Certainly. In a project centered around a dysfunctional family, the cinematography played a pivotal role in portraying the complex interpersonal dynamics between the characters. Through framing, composition, and lighting, we visually conveyed the shifting power dynamics, emotional tensions, and hidden resentments simmering beneath the surface of their interactions. For example, framing characters in tight, claustrophobic compositions during heated arguments emphasized the suffocating sense of confinement and emotional volatility within the family dynamic. Conversely, using wide, expansive compositions during moments of reconciliation or connection conveyed a sense of openness and possibility in their relationships.


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