Monday, October 28, 2013

American Splendor: Cinematography reflecting the comic book style

"American Splendor," based off of the highly acclaimed comic book series, follows the average-everyday-man character of Harvey Pekar and spreads light upon how facing everyday struggles can amount to your average joe being a, well, hero! The cinematography of the film reflects the original form and nature of the story: the comic book-style.

In an article conducted through CreativePlanet, the cinematographer of American Splendor, Terry Stacey, talks about how he manipulated the film stock to give it a grittier 70s pop kind-of-feeling to reflect the style of a comic book. On top of that the colors are quite dull throughout the film, reflecting on the fact that this is the story about a real, normal, (occasionally somewhat dull) guy.

The color scheme of the film focuses on dulled out shades of the primary colors red, blue, and yellow. Occasionally in the film there were moments where they popped a bit more. For example, in Harvey's work place all of the files are lined with those colors and it amps up the monotony of his life. These primary colors are very reminiscent of your standard comic book.

The film occasionally cuts back to the documentary-style footage of the real Harvey Pekar. The setting is in a white room, amplifying the contrast of realty versus the retelling of reality. In the article the cinematographer stated:

"Eventually we decided it would be more interesting to shoot this material on 24P HD and composite it as if it were in a real comic book, with 'reality' floating in a white frame. It was a more sharp, surreal world, with that comic strip depth of field where everything's in focus."

Through the shot design we are continuously shown a contrast of the self-reflexive nature of a comic book. A few times in the film we see interludes that take place as a comic book and then real footage, again, showcasing the conversion of comic to film.


  1. Good Job Kira, I enjoyed reading about the color scheme. I din't know that this primary colors would help to create a comic book look. Her decisions are very interesting I would like to know more about the use in reality in it? What effect do you think it made in the audience?
    Your post is very well redacted and light to read. Keep it up :D

  2. Clarify: You said:"..the colors are quite dull throughout the film, reflecting on the fact..", then you said:"The color scheme ... there were moments where they popped a bit more." I'm not clear about the things that you talked about color. Are the primary colors different between the 'color' that reflects on the fact?