Vittorio Storaro

Vittorio Storaro is an Italian cinematographer best known for his oscar winning camera work on Apocalypse Now (1979). He is the cinematographer that inspires cinematographers, and for me his focus on light over camera is what interested me most. Coming from a theatrical background he has dedicated his life to interpreting colour and the effects light can have on subjects and audiences. He is a professional who gets it right all the time, but it’s difficult to explain if there is any method to his general madness.

Storaro was driven by the idea of psychoanalysis of colour throughout his research, this is especially apparent in his approach to Luna (1978) and One From The Heart (1981) where he uses the symbolisms of colour to express the characters. Each character radiates their presence through the use of colour, embodying a variety of associations beyond the traditional westernised version. A psychoanalysis approach to colour suggests every colour represents something specific in an emotional sense. This emotion isn’t just the simple case of colour theory and association, but the fact the body actually undergoes physical and mental state due to the colours it is exposed to. When it is sunny your body wakes up to yellow hues, when thinks get darker and bluer you tend to feel more tired.

In Las Vegas, you never have to feel it is night or late. The light basically replicates the sun. Being inside the hotel or casino you don’t see the sun outside so you want to go for a walk or have some fresh air. But you see that each window has been painted blue so you feel that there is no sun outside and you want to stay inside and gamble. They were using these colour principles to have particular unconscious stimulus to the human body.


His views of colour as the most important of cinematography expands beyond the mediums of film, bringing into the real world. This idea that every single element can reflect the representation of a subject may seem far fetched, but at the same time it does spur your thinking into it. The fact technology is constantly changing, and the world as a whole so lighting and the way its replicated will always be affected. For example if I were to use an LED panel on location the quality of light will change between when I first switch it on and the quality of it 10 minutes later. The combination of the battery power lowered therefore reducing the intensity, yet at the same time the entire room changes as the daylight of the surrounding world progresses in 10 minutes from sunrise closer to sunset.

Storaro is very thought provoking and really expands the idea of what light and colour is beyond the realms of media, almost to a philosophical perspective. I like to think I could chat with him for hours about this very idea, the fact I am working towards something that can be expressed as a set of numbers on a chart, but at the same time be expressed as an emotion. Red is between 620 – 680nm, but at the same time it is romance, it is blood, it is anger; this is just one example of this contrasting approach to colour and light.


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