London: Night, Day and the Camera
Filming for Redemption took place during the spring of 2012, with the majority of the 8-week occurring on location in central London, as well as at 3 Mills Studios in East London. Producer Paul Webster helped surround Knight with a world-class crew who brought a wealth of experience to the first-time director's efforts. These included two-time Academy-award winning director of photography Chris Menges, production designer Michael Carlin and costume designer Louise Stjernsward.
Knight and Menges spent considerable time walking through central London to discover exactly what the city had to offer, from the reflections on the river to the red lanterns of Chinese New Year. Knight explains, "The easy thing to do would have been to make everything look gritty and hand-held. But what I wanted to do was to make the city beautiful, and for the camera to have a dignity about it and for the whole thing to be done almost as if it were pastoral. Rather than making the city look garish and ugly, make it look really settled and beautiful. That's exactly what Chris wanted to do as well."
The production filmed in many iconic areas of London, including the world-famous Covent Garden piazza; The Royal Opera House, where Cristina attends ballerina Maria Zielinska's farewell performance; St. Paul's Church, where the soup kitchen is based; the historic Borough Market and various locations in the neighborhoods of Soho, East London and Chinatown. Interior sets, which were built at 3 Mills Studios, included the Covent Garden apartment Joey breaks into and the rooftop party at Canary Wharf.
The film's many urban London locations posed numerous logistical challenges and required that the crew be as quick and agile as possible. One particular asset was the production's camera, a prototype Alexa. With the ability to shoot in very low light, the camera also breaks down into two halves, which enabled Menges to easily light his scenes and move the camera in confined spaces. Despite these advantages, one particularly challenging sequence was the opening night time chase scene featuring Joey's rooftop escape. "It required a lot of shooting time," explains Webster. "There's a complicated fight. It's all night. And it's across the rooftops and so on, and it was shot in many different locations across many days in the schedule. But I think it paid off. It's a very dynamic piece."
Production designer Michael Carlin created two starkly contrasting worlds to emphasize Joey's transition from living in a cardboard box to assuming the identity of an affluent gay man in a sleek Covent Garden apartment. "We tried to create something believable that would be as far removed from Joey's life on the streets," says Carlin of the apartment set. "It has all clean straight lines, elegant pictures of naked men, amazing fixtures and fittings. We pushed each world as far from the other as it could get: the backstreets of Chinatown are dark with lots of little coloured lights, which contrasts with the cool grey tones of the immaculate flat."
The majority of Redemption takes place under the cover of darkness, in a dark parallel world populated by shadowy characters. In the film, the River Thames appears as a powerful symbol for the dark heart of the city. Knight says, "It's referred to in the script as being there to wash away the bodies of girls like Isabel. It's a sinister, dark remover of secrets running between the lights of the city, with St. Paul's and the Houses of Parliament -- church and state -- on either side. It has a malevolent influence within the film. For example, on Waterloo Bridge, Joey decides to beat up Taxman as he stares into the river."
Joey and Cristina spend much of their time together at night, often parting before dawn breaks, creating a sharp contrast with the film's daylight scenes, where London is alive and vibrant. "Our characters live and hide at night, and we therefore shot the film largely at night," says producer Guy Heeley. "I've never shot four straight weeks of night shoots and it really instructed how the film looks and how it feels, the atmosphere of it. We've managed to capture a very uninhabited London and it's not something you often see."
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