Striking out on his own, Terrence Malick’s protégé A.J. Edwards’ debut film, The Better Angels, tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s early life in a lyrical, experimental way with little dialogue.
“The minimal dialogue was not to be noticed as though something was missing, but rather that was the approach, to have a picture that was not just a vessel of dialogue in which the actors are treated just as people who are there to deliver words,” Edwards tells Indiewire. “The approach was really an experiential picture, one that is there to capture behavior, expression, nuance, and to really be in that world and walk with the Lincoln family and experience the sensual as well as the emotional.”
Similar to the work of his mentor Malick, the cinematography then was of utmost importance. “We wanted artificial lighting to be as minimal as possible, and to have as much of a documentary-captured look as we could,” Edwards says. “[The DP] created a very simple but elegant lighting scheme outside the cabin whenever we needed to blast light in for the sake of stop. But other than that we were so benefited by the time of year in which we shot, Fall, and then being in upstate New York where essentially we always had sort of light coming horizontally at us, never too direct. I'm so glad when people have noticed that [actresses] Brit [Marling] and Diane [Kruger] seem to always be bathed in light, yet the source of it is not always quite apparent. That sometimes gives it a divine feel as well.”
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