Bobby Bukowski on Ben Smithard

Eye on the Oscars: The Cinematographer

My immediate reaction to Ben Smithard’s task in shooting “My Week With Marilyn” is the precariousness of being a cinematographer faced with the daunting challenge of dealing with such a recognizable iconic figure.

While presenting a viable and believable facsimile of Michelle Williams as Marilyn, Ben had to concurrently take on the position that every cinematographer must assume: the one of using our tools to tell a dramatic story. It would be easy to concentrate on the more obvious of the two objectives, presenting Michelle as Marilyn the icon at the expense of the other. Yet Ben gracefully and effectively excelled in both these objectives.

His lighting of Michelle is beautiful, her skin an alabaster beacon and her eyes appropriately afire every time they were intended to seduce, charm or disarm. Alongside the excellent job done by the actress, Ben’s presentation of her face served to hook me into the character’s psychology. He aptly reveals her public siren side, then shows us the essence of the insecure and delicate woman she was away from the spotlight. To this end, Ben employed his craft in expert ways.

When Marilyn is being Marilyn the star, Ben replicates the glamour lighting of the period, presenting her as an object — a shining and polished figure replete with the glow of a superstar.

However, when the film requires us to be a fly on the wall, Ben uses his tools to present Marilyn/ Michelle in delicately modulated natural light, so as to remove her from the pedestal.

For example, in Ben’s visual construction of the secret day Marilyn spends with Colin at the Windsor palace and countryside, Marilyn is bathed in the warm and shimmering glow of natural sunlight and the ambient effulgence of a softly day-lit interior. Here Ben gives us a rare opportunity to see in her natural state, not caught up in the proscribed and media-created definition of beauty.

And it is in these moments that her soul is revealed and we recognize her true humanity.

Bukowski’s d.p. credits include “Arlington Road,” “The Messenger” and, most recently, “Rampart.”


Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety