Spielberg and Kaminski (and Kodak!) Reunite for Cold War Thriller Bridge of Spies
October 16, 2015
Bridge of Spies is a suspenseful drama that draws the audience into the strained times of the Cold War. Based on a true story, it follows New York lawyer James Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) as he is recruited by the CIA to defend Rudolf Abel, a captured American U-2 pilot spy in Russia. With tension between Russia and America elevated to new heights, Donovan's negotiations are the pilot's only hope of being free again.
"It was a very dangerous time to be in the headlines for standing up for a spy," said Spielberg. The director made sure to convey that peril with help from his longtime cinematic partner Janusz Kaminski.
Kaminski's first film with Spielberg was Schindler's List in 1993, and since that time they have worked on more than a dozen films together. He has been nominated for an Academy Award® six times, winning twice for Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, both collaborations with Spielberg.
According to producer Marc Platt, "One can start a sentence and the other can finish it, and the result for us as moviegoers is to watch the film come to life and to watch the beauty of it, the look and the feel of it, and that lies in whatever miraculously occurs between Janusz and Steven."
Renowned for his ability to capture emotional details amid stunning visuals, Kaminski's primary goal is establishing a cinematic grammar in which to tell the story. Fortunately with Bridge of Spies, the outstanding locations (New York City, Berlin and Wroclaw, Poland), set dressing and costumes provided countless opportunities for the camera.
"What I love about working with Janusz is that I can understand very quickly the stakes that he's going for," says Hanks. "I can ask him what will be in the shot and he will tell me, so I have the luxury of working with someone like that who will help me, which means a couple of things: I will not screw up the shot, and he will help me get another little moment of James Donovan into a scene."
Kaminski's goal was to visually convey the reality of the Cold War on-screen. The cinematographer conceived creative ways to revive the period while not going overboard, as he knew that too much imagery would look fake. Spielberg explains, "We didn't have the budget to put blue screen and show miles and miles of digital period buildings out the window, so we had the windows frosted over. Then Janusz brought all the light, one source, a single source, from the glass, and it gave that first meeting between Donovan and Abel a real coldness. As a warmth began to develop, or at least the opportunity for a relationship began to occur to us (and to them), you could interpret that cool light as being sort of a wall between them that would slowly come down over the course of their story."
Bridge of Spies rolls out in theaters October 14.