LIGHT AND DARKNESS OF COLONEL WALTER E. KURTZ AND SAINT MATTHEW

Some brief notes about Vittorio Storaro's inspiring masterclass in Lisbon, December 7th, 2017.


Academia Portuguesa de Cinema organized a masterclass with the world-renowned cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, at Centro Cultura de Belém, Lisbon. 

Storaro's masterclass wasn't a technical lesson about cameras and film gear, instead, it was focused on the relevance of a symbolic and conceptual vision that enables an artistic work with light. Storaro highlighted also the importance of cultural references as if such references were a form of cinematography for the mind. As an example, he referred how vital it was to his artistic journey the encounter with the paintings of Caravaggio (1573-1610), or more precisely, one painting: The Calling of Saint Matthew (1599). About this example of cinematic appropriation of older image styles, in this case, from a Baroque painter, there's an interview by Giose Gallotti, entitled Baroque Visions (American Cinematographer, September 2007), where we can read:

"While I was walking around inside the church, I discovered the Contarelli Chapel, decorated with extraordinary paintings by an artist whose name I didn't know at that time. One, in particular, took my breath away: The Calling of St. Matthew, which I later learned was a work by Caravaggio."

Another interview, by Jon Fauer, entitled "The Calling of Vittorio Storaro" (Film and Digital Times, 12/7/2015), offers some more details about such an important encounter between two great visual artists:

"One day I was with Antonia, my wife, walking in Rome near Piazza Navona and we entered a little church called San Luigi dei Francesi. Inside, I discovered something that I never knew until that moment. On the walls were some canvases by a painter, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. These paintings filled me with incredible emotions and completely changed my vision. It totally changed my way of seeing. Nobody had mentioned to me there was a Baroque painter called Caravaggio who was using light and shadow to visualize our life’s journey."

During the masterclass, Storaro mentioned how this painting deeply influenced his work, particularly the photography of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979).

"(...) a clean separation between light and shadow, I was so bowled over by that painting I felt immediately impelled to try to understand and deepen the relationship between these two elements. I had to take my studies to a level that enable me to grasp the intrinsic significance of that representation. (...) without having looked at that painting, I would not have been able to make The Conformist or Apocalypse Now." (American Cinematographer, September 2007, page 56).