Name a more dysfunctional family than the Roys. We’ll wait. The Emmy-sweeping show about awful rich people returns to our screens for its final season. Bring on the Greg sprinkles.
Before we get reacquainted with the Roy family, as they plot, scheme and backstab their way to the top, let’s talk about the tour-de-force technical work. Of course we’re here to talk about cameras, what else did you expect?
Before we talk shop, we can’t not relive this iconic moment.
The camera in Succession wants a seat at the table more than any of Logan’s offspring. And we’re here for it. Practically imperfect in every way, the camerawork serves the show’s narrative without you even realising it.
Bucking the digital trend, the series is shot on Kodak 35mm (old school) with underexposure to soften the contrast, staying true to the analog tone and texture of film which is vital to the visuals.
Rooted in realism and throwing everything out the window, opting for an observational cinematography style and taking cues from Dogme 95 and Cinéma vérité (Google it), we as the audience are voyeurs – or Roy-eurs, if you will.
It is our point of view. We are the camera. Privy to and experiencing a world we may never, or ever want to visit, through the complex camera movements. Almost every shot has flaws that would typically be a re-take or cut out in the edit, but not here my friend.
Handheld, snap zooms, rack focuses, blocking, scanning the room, finding the actors, rather than placing the camera directly in front of them, the indirect documentary style leaves us buzzing, like the little fly on the wall we’re forced to be. Watching and waiting for the next move, quip or insult.
Succession isn’t a mockumentary. No David Brent side-eyeing the camera here. The characters never acknowledge the lens – but the show is consciously shot as though the camera is in the room.
Considering almost every scene is just people standing and talking, or sitting and talking, or drinking and talking (you get the jist), colour us impressed how kinetic the show feels.
The character’s conversations, no matter how banal and ordinary, feel tense and exciting. Yes the actors are great, the performances are great but hands down, this uneasy ‘on edge’ feeling is all down to the camerawork (fight us), and how the show treats the camera as though it’s a character in itself.
The unseen camera shares subjective personality and perspective, someone in the room, watching and attempting to follow the drama as it unfolds in real-time. It’s responsive and is caught off-guard and in-turn, so are we.
The show’s cinematographer, Andrij Parekh uses “zooms and crash zooms as emotional exclamation points to the story.” Technical. Irrational. Punctuational (?) – there’s a lot to love about HBO’s hottest show right now.