Cutaways and Flashbacks
Throughout the course of the film, the forward trajectory of the voiceover narration is broken up by explanation, so to speak. This is typically when a new character is introduced. Cherry might refer to one of the Army officers and what his background was, and whenever we would cut to those, the visual component of those backstories were done with the Hawk class-X anamorphic lens. It’s a very clean, modern-looking lens, and they were done is almost proscenium or a presentational kind of imagery, much less intimate than the rest of the movie. They are really meant more to give a visual description of who this particular character that was being introduced was. And then we would come back to our first-person story, Cherry’s story, and you would see it more from this more first-person point of view that we did the bulk of the movie in.
Cherry was shot on the Sony Venice, which has a large sensor. To me, that large sensor is interesting, not even as much for the resolution — which is what everybody’s seems to be talking about all the time: how many Ks you have — but because the size of the sensor is a big determining factor in the field of view for whatever particular focal length you’re using. By definition, when you have a larger sensor, you’re using longer focal lengths, and yet you’re not using them as a telephoto, you’re using them as a wide angle — or potentially you can.
With a large sensor, you can do things like have a close-up with a 50mm lens, which is really a wide-angle lens in that format. Whereas a 50mm lens in a normal size sensor or a super 35 size sensor would be what’s considered a normal lens or medium telephoto. So the 6K format of the Venice, and the physical size of the sensor, allows for lensing, for me, that felt right for the story, that gives a lot of opportunity for composition and staging.
Eventually, he goes to prison. And the epilogue was always meant to not have dialogue, but act as a passage-of-time montage, because you have a limited amount of screen time to tell the story of 11 years, where a man has gone into prison and has had time to really contemplate a terrible set of decisions he made.
And there’s a very definitive moment for Cherry where he goes from being somewhat despondent, to where he makes a decision that he’s going to work himself out of it. He’s not gonna throw in the towel, he’s not going to give up, he’s gonna try to find some redemptive quality to his life. This passage of time was told with a series of match-cut Dolly shots — so it almost feels like it’s one long dolly shot, but it’s a series of shots that are cut together.
And then there’s a pause in the movement, and that’s when Cherry’s had some resolve and he’s made this decision and then the camera starts moving in the other direction. This dolly move shift is metaphorically saying he’s now moving in a more positive direction.
There’s very little color in it. It’s a much colder look and very clean look — it’s probably the cleanest, most unadorned visual look of the entire film, which represents some of the starkness of where he’s found himself in prison.
This segment was all done with the Hawk X lenses (the same ones we use for the cutaways), which are a much more modern lens than the Todd AO. The Todd AO lenses — I find them very beautiful, but from a technical or scientific point of view, they’re horrific.
Cherry, directed by the Russo brothers and lensed by Newton Thomas Sigel, is now in theaters, from Apple.
As told to Caleb Hammond