Watching the first episode of Game of Thrones, Season 5, I was struck by how satisfying the use of colour and composition are in the series: the richness of the imagery, the colour, the texture of the materials, the design of the sets and costumes. I’ve not yet thought through the expressiveness of imagery – is it ‘merely’ pretty or is the full expressive potential of these particular arrangements of line, colour, people, places and things being realised? This is something that intrigues me and that I mean to come back to at a later point. But what struck me immediately was how delighted I was by them; and how much I’ve missed this kind of pleasure at the cinema recently. Mad Max: Fury Road is about the only recent film I can remember making an impression on this basis; the rest of the films seemed grey or otherwise lacking in luminosity, thinly textured visually, mis-arranged (Jurassic World) and sometimes even un-arranged (Pitch Perfect 2).
In this first episode of Game of Thrones one sees imagery that would be the envy of many a feature film but designed to be best viewed on a smaller screen. It’s not only a question of privileging close-ups or medium shots (though one detects that element as well, though decreasingly so) but more of keeping the image relatively simple with the eye drawn at most to a few elements or a clear arrangement of a handful of elements to be rendered not only delightful but legible on a smaller screen. Just as magazine covers tend to focus on faces or at most full-figure shots, rather than put landscape or busy arrangements of crowds of people on their covers, these type of shows are also designed to take optimum advantage of the context in which the majority of their viewers might be expected to see them (arguably the home television 1st, and the computer screen second)
I was struck also by how one saw shots (see below for an example) that one could not have imagined possible for TV even a few years ago, the scale, the spectacle (though when one looks closely one sees, again, how simple and uncluttered it is, how few elements actually go into it; but enough to be dazzling in themselves. Something that is probably minimises cost but maximises visual impact). Here the image begins by seeming only of sky, moves down so one get a clear close-up of the stature, keeps moving down and away so one see sit in full and,as it crashes down the camera keeps pulling away so one sees people and then the full panoramic dimension of pyramid, sea, mountains and city as it comes crashing down. Absolutely dazzling.