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Director of Photography Slideshow

Crew shooting

On location with director Todd Haynes (seated L) and director of photography Ed Lachman (R). Says Lachman: Todds idea for Mildred Pierce was to view the 1930s through a 70s revisionist style of filmmaking referencing movies like Chinatown and Klute, with a more pared-down, natural look to the lighting. We didnt want to have the stylized studio look of classic 30s and 40s noir lighting and camera work.

Mildred on porch in rain

We used naturalism, even at night. Were not creating night light, were creating ambient light -- where light would have been. So the lit doorway overhead is whats lighting the scene, and then the edge light is from a street light we established earlier. Were not doing it in an expressionistic way; were trying to be true to what the light sources are.

Monty in cafe reading paper

This is the café where Mildred works when she meets Monty. On location we imposed the same kind of restrictions as when we were in the studio (say, for Mildreds house and restaurant). The exterior is cool. I wanted to play with color temperature, as if I were living in this world then. So the light outside the window is cooler than the warmer interior light. By making the exterior a different color temperature from the interior, you felt the street more.

Mildred in light of window

We built the house that would become Mildreds restaurant on a stage, but you can see the lights from the windows are burning out. Again, I was trying to emulate being on location, when you cant totally control the light in the windows, which gives it an authenticity.

Looking at Mildred through glass

This shot references Saul Leiter, a photographer Todd and I liked. Leiter found certain textures and reflections in objects. For him, it was less about the content and more about the feelings these shards of reality evoke. Here Mildred is moving through a glass revolving door as if through dislocated space; the beveled glass and mirrors and objects fragmenting her world and evoking her shattered state. The images become not only a representational view of the world but a psychological one.

Mildred inside restaurant looking out

You see Mildred at the café, looking forlorn through the window. With Mildred, we tried to create a certain distance, as if shes being observed. So theres always something between her and us.

Mildred walking through restaurant

Here we see Mildred walking through her restaurant. Its lit with practicals. We tried to capture how the restaurant would have been lit in the 30s. The walls are olive green; we worked closely with costume designer Ann Roth to augment the colors of the costumes against the sets.

Little Veda playing piano

This is a real location which we lit from the exterior. Again were burning out the windows and Im playing with color temperature. The lights are warm inside from the practicals and Im using (warmer) tungsten film, but letting the light come through the windows which are cooler.

Mildred watching Veda play piano

The light here is primarily from the exterior and we used a relatively new lighting fixture to mimic sunlight. Here we had the idea to light the space and let the actors work freely within it rather than just lighting the actors. This created a certain naturalism by mimicking what the light would have been in the room and letting it play as it was.

Veda playing piano reflected in wood

Seeing Veda in the piano is another example of reflection that happened naturally, from lighting outdoors in. We discovered that in the moment.

Mildred in car

Whats wonderful about this shot is how the natural light fluctuated as the sunlight went between the spaces of the buildings. If we had a light on her, it wouldnt fluctuate so we used a big white poly to bounce back actual sunlight on Mildreds face. We were tight enough on her that we didnt have to see the reflection on the car; youd believe the light and shadow because wed already seen her move through light and shadow on the street.

Foyer of Montys mansion

The Woolworth Mansion is another real location we used for Montys mansion. We implemented lighting to evoke Montys world. Apparently the marble alone cost $2 million when the mansion was built.

Bert backlit in restaurant

For the final scene with Bert and Mildred in the bar, we wanted it to be a mood piece. I like lighting that hits different surfaces, and the surfaces create the ambient light in the room. Here, the strong light hits the floor and bounces off and that becomes the ambient light in the rest of the scene.

Part 1

After throwing her cheating husband out of the house, a young mother
named Mildred Pierce tries to find suitable work in Depression-era California.