The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and The Night of the Hunter (1955), films produced over 50 years apart, are similar in that they are tedious with predicable plot devices, populated with dull characters and saddled with stilted dialogue; in short, they are bereft of any effective story structure.These films should instead be celebrated for the artistry of the cinematographers.
Stanley Cortez’s work on The Night of the Hunter, clearly inspired by the German Expressionists of the 1920s, is haunting in the framing and lighting. Time and again, whether the underwater shot of a drowned woman still at the wheel of her car or the preacher looming over a bed, Cortez constructs shots that unsettle, reminding the viewer of the uneven landscape in our own heads. Wally Pfister’s cinematography for The Dark Knight Rises, although burdened with obsessive special effects, also resonates with this dark subterranean subconscious. Inspired by a Wagnerian grandiosoty and the final macabre days of the French Revolution, Pfister does not allow the Batman, hence all of us, to escape this morass of humanity. More a collection of brooding images, these films are better in pieces, isolated fragments, allowing us the freedom to drift through our thoughts.