Cinematography of ‘Mank’. How Erik Messerschmidt ASC Used a Variable Depth of Field

Focus pull in combination with Cinefade.

Cinefade VariND
February 5, 2021

Mank (2020) was beautifully shot by Erik Messerschmidt ASC in black and white, with scattered visual references to Citizen Kane (1941) – often cited as the best film ever made. The original cinematographer for Citizen Kane, Gregg Toland was incredibly influential, according to Messerschmidt. One of the most revolutionary things about Citizen Kane was Gregg Toland’s use of deep focus and Mank pays homage to this signature technique and introduces a novel storytelling tool – the Cinefade variable depth of field effect.

Oliver from Cinefade caught up with Erik to discuss his use of the VariND on Mank and his thought process behind some of the Cinefade scenes that feature a variable depth of field.

“There’s been a loss of using focus as a storytelling tool these days. You are always sharp on whoever is talking in modern cinema and I liked the idea of taking bespoke moments in the film and isolating characters with a variable depth of field. David [Fincher] had asked for a way to do this and it became a huge part of the film. I love the product, it’s great.”

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