What can you say about the unique look of the film?

I spent a lot of time on the color palette for The Conspirator. I started out in my life as an artist, so I’m prone to go in that direction.  And this was a chance to play with a palette that would suggest… well, Rembrandt, because of the richness and the saturation of color that he used. The use of light was more Vermeer.  And, yet, also something new and different on top of that.

Our cameraman, Tom Sigel, and I spent a lot of time on that palette and the lighting. Everything in those days was lit by candle, or torch, or gaslight. So that’s going to have a whole different look and feel.  The challenge was to have the character’s faces go to an almost opaque quality, while still saturated, without losing detail in the far background. Now that was a tricky thing but it was fun to work on.

Robert Redford

About Robert Redford

Director Robert Redford offers his insight into the talent, themes, and making of The Conspirator, now in theaters (April 15).
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12 Responses to What can you say about the unique look of the film?

  1. Craig L. Gay says:

    Having grown up surrounded by Civil War History and having a Great Grandfather who fought and bled for the Confederate Nation, I look forward to viewing your newest film. I have been a fan of your’s for many years and have enjoyed the movies you were in and the one you have directed and produced. This is a film that should have been made long ago and for sure it mirrors America following 9/11 and the military trials for those Conspirators. If we don’t learn from our past we are doomed to repeat it.
    Thanks for taking that rather large step to tell the story of Mary S. and no one we really ever know just how much she did know.

    • Richard Sloan says:

      I think a good job was done on the film, but Mrs. Surrtt never admitted to anyone (certainly not her lawyer, her priest, or her interrogators) that she knew of or had any role in Booth’s earlier kidnap plot. I wish Louis Weichmann was depicted a little nervous in the film instead of being cocky. He is the most fascinating character in Mrs. Surratt’s case. (I wrote and produced a two-man show about Weichmnn for which I am always trying to find an audience!) I wish there was more emotion by Mrs. SUrratt in the film, instead of being depicted as so stoic. But kudos for Mr. Redford bringing this story to the screen. I don’t mind some of the historic license. Altho I’m a serious student of the case, I appreciate the value of historic license. I am writing a book about how the Lincoln assassination stories and its characters have been depicted on the screen and on stage.

      • Timothy McGivern says:

        Well–No one can ever be sure what, if anything, she confessed to her priest(s), because of the Priest/Penitent confidentiality and privilege. The priest is barred both by Catholic Canon law as well as English/U.S. common law from ever disclosing what is said in the confessional.

        • Timothy McGivern says:

          Oh, and the same goes for whatever she disclosed to her attorney in confidence. He could never disclose anything she said without her express consent–even after her death. (I’m a lawyer, AND was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools.)

  2. Ananda Dejarnette says:

    Thank you for getting this story to us in what looks to be a movie that will be entertaining and historically engaging. I am interested in taking over 75 8th grade students to view this movie, but am having trouble finding a theatre that will accomodate. If anyone reading this can provide me with any advice on how to make that happen, I would be greatly appreciative.

    Ananda Dejarnette
    8th grade history teacher
    Coronado Middle School
    Coronado, CA

  3. LeeAnn Hickman says:

    I just saw this movie last night at a sneak preview. Either I was asleep during History class, or this was not taught to me when I was in school, but I was really shocked to see this story. My husband, who is a history buff, knew the story well. It really saddens me to know that this not only happened, but it happened concerning such a great leader. Lincoln must have been rolling over in his grave during this trial. But it also shows how very little politics have changed over the years. If they were this ruthless 150 years ago, I doubt that any politician has gotten better since then. If anything, this movie shows me that we all need to stay vigilant in everything our politicians do!

  4. Kel Christensen says:

    I’m not a history buff. However, films written by notable directors such as Robert Redford change the way we see or understand the past. I’ve followed his acting career and have deeply enjoyed his sensitivity to history in his writing. Since becoming a parent of 3 children, just 20 yrs ago, history has become an interest. Lighting is essential in conveying the mood. Glad he has taken so much time with it. We look forward to the entertainment that makes us think:)!

  5. Leslie Saul says:

    We saw the movie last night and after reading some reviews that said it was plodding, were afraid of falling asleep. On the contrary, we were engaged and impressed with the film. I wonder how the effect of Aiken walking down the street after his girlfriend left without him was achieved. it looked like he was walking through a fog of shimmering fishscales. Seemed like a double exposure. I thought the fog and shafts of light were like a character in the movie, communicating about the murkiness of discovering the truth. Well done!

  6. Sue L. says:

    Dear Mr. Redford;

    Thank you for always having been and continuing to be a class act. It’s a glaring reality that we have a MAJOR deficit of those in the world today–in ALL arenas. Your intelligence, wisdom and insight are truly refreshing and a rare commodity. Have greatly appreciated your work as well as your environmental contributions since I was 10–the year that The Way We Were was first released!
    You may also have played ball against my dad. He went to North Hollywood High-class of ’52 and played each year he was there. He’s also a HUGE historian and it will be very interesting to get his take on the Conspirator. My husband and I are actually out the door right now to go see it!


    Sue Lane
    Laguna Niguel, CA

  7. Mary E. R. Knowles says:

    I think it was a wonderful film: beautifully told, not at all like an emotionless “documentary’ but emotionally charged, and – it seems – faithful to history. It should be required viewing for all students. More than that, it illustrates a repeating question that presents itself throughout history: is the “greater good” served by immoral actions which respond to a momentary need, or does adherence to fundamental views of justice serve us better in the longrun?
    The questions this film raises seem to reverberate with today’s decisions vis-a-vis the trials of Guantanamo detainees. I would love to know more about the Supreme Court decision in the late 1800s determining that U.S. citizens (non-military) were to be accorded trials in the civil courts even during wartime. Was this in direct response to the Mary Surratt case? What are its reverberations?

    • Laurie Verge says:

      The case that you mentioned is referred to as ex parte Milligan and was pending in the Supreme Court at the time of the 1865 Conspiracy Trial. It had nothing to do with the case of the Lincoln conspirators, but is often mentioned in discussions of the military trial. It did uphold the principle that civilians should be tried in civilian courts when such courts are open and operating. I do not have a legal mind, however, I understand that there are certain loopholes provided in that decision.

      Much hoopla has been made by the media on comparing the 1865 military trial with Gitmo. There are quite a few differences, the chief one being that the detainees at Guantanamo are not U.S. citizens, whereas the Lincoln conspirators were; and only Lewis Powell came from a state that had left the Union. Also, Lincoln never recognized the Confederacy as a separate country. Therefore, all of the conspirators were U.S. citizens.

  8. Lucille says:

    Beautiful film. I felt like I was transported back in time because of the way it was photographed. Excellent acting from a superb cast.

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