Cinematography and the Silhouette

A friend recently pointed out the genius artistry of German painter Caspar David Friedrich. One of his most well known works is Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (shown above). The image is used as an inspirational starting point for many modern-day depictions of the human form in film, television and art.

It’s been noted that many contemporary cinematic compositions — as well as film key art — takes heavy inspiration from the Wanderer. Back to the camera. A nameless figure. Solitary. Someone for the viewer to project their own mindset on, perhaps.

Many of his pieces typically feature “contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or gothic or megalithic ruins”. They’re dark, ominous, grim and beautiful. If you like your art cheery and bright, C.D.F. is not your man.

I thought I’d take a spin through some modern cinematography’s most iconic frames to see just how much the silhouette in this form lines up with what Caspar David Friedrich’s brush strokes depicted way back when. In almost all cases, chiaroscuro outlines of shadowy figures makes for some epic imagery.


Blade Runner 2049 – DP Roger Deakins

Blade Runner – DP Jordan Cronenworth

The Watchmen — DOP Larry Fong

The Watchmen — DOP Jeff Cronenworth

300 — DOP Larry Fong

The Shining – DP John Alcott

Malificent – DP Dean Semler

Killing Them Softly – DP Greig Fraser

Kill Bill – DP Robert Richardson

There Will Be Blood – DP Robert Elswit


No Country For Old Men – DP Roger Deakins

Skyfall – DP Roger Deakins


Mad Max (Video Game 2015)


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