November 1, 2023

The Pigeon Tunnel cinematographer Igor Martinović

The Pigeon Tunnel is director Errol Morris’ latest documentary about David Cornwell, otherwise known as the author John le Carré, who wrote several best-selling spy novels after serving as a spy himself. Cinematographer Igor Martinović explores the nature of deception visually in the film, using multiple mirrors and reflections of Cornwell as he’s being interviewed.

For The Pigeon Tunnel, Igor wanted to create a visual story that enhances the story Cornwell tells about his life, adding another layer that the viewer might not notice right away. They used four cameras to shoot the interviews, and 12 mirrors to reflect Cornwell in different parts of the room. Igor liked the idea of a spy’s multiple personas represented by multiplying images. It was tricky to shoot with so many mirrors reflecting the cameras and lights, so for some shots, the equipment had to be erased in post. Igor also used mirrors in some b-roll shots, as Cornwell walks though the forest between the mirrors. For the re-creations dealing with Cornwell’s troubled childhood, Igor played around with some surrealist composition and kept the frame imbalanced, to represent the unstable conditions that he grew up in.

Igor has worked on several commercials, documentary features and documentary series with director Errol Morris. With his 1988 film, The Thin Blue Line, Morris changed how documentaries were made. His approach to documentary filmmaking is something he describes as “anti-verité.” Even though his films are non-fiction, Morris always approaches each one as a filmed story, using composed interviews with the subject speaking directly to the camera, and creating artful reenactments. As a cinematographer, Igor was a long admirer of Morris’ work. When shooting the documentary Man on Wire,  Igor watched The Thin Blue Line as a reference, and it inspired some scenes in the film. He’s enjoyed being able to work with Morris now.

In 2011, Igor shot a horror movie, Silent House, that was almost entirely filmed in one take. It was actually about 15 total shots, limited mainly by the amount of space they had on each memory card. He found it to be an interesting challenge, as if they were filming a dance or a play. They were able to accomplish the long takes through extensive rehearsals and improved the performances each time.

The Pigeon Tunnel is currently on Apple TV+.

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