IV. “Logan’s Run” cinematography gem #2: composition, camera movement, and lighting during the “inciting incident” for Logan
The scene where Logan receives the orders from the city computer to find Sanctuary is probably the best photographed scene in the film. When Logan enters the room, it’s business as usual… he is there to receive basic orders as he always does. By the time he leaves, his world is turned upside down. Years have been taken off his life clock, and he has been forced into a mission that he doesn’t entirely understand, and certainly doesn’t want to perform.
In the opening of the scene, the room is lit high-key and feels comfortable. The master shot is compositionally balanced, making Logan feel grounded and in control. Compare this with the final shot of the scene, where Logan exits… the comfortable lighting has been replaced with a hard, contrasty light, and the angle is low and distorted, showing the newly twisted relationship between Logan and the mastermind computer that runs the city. The super-saturated lights are framed above him, pushing him awkwardly low in the frame, and diminishing his power in favor of the machine. There’s a nice touch at the end of the scene: after Logan leaves the frame, the camera pushes in on the red light above Logan’s head, seemingly pulled in and manipulated by the computer’s power the same way Logan has been.
Another subtle progression comes with the shots of Logan as he is given the mission by the computer. The first closeup below accompanies the “comfortable” master prior to the new mission. As Logan receives his orders, the camera dollys in from an ultra wide to a medium lose-up, the first of this type of dramatic push-in in the entire film, which shows how this unexpected order from the computer has forced an immediacy into his otherwise banal life. A few shots later, we see a new version of the close-up. It’s tighter than the previous one, and it’s the closest we’ve been to him in the entire film. The shallower depth-of-field and lower angle flattens him against the mechanical background, destroying the previous sense of comfort, and showing how he feels that he has been pushed into a corner and manipulated by the computer. A pulsing red light (motivated by his now expiring life-clock implanted in his hand) adds an extra touch of disruption to the previously serene environment.
(In the final “Logan’s Run” installment, I will look at the use of extreme wide shots combined with color palette as a storytelling device)