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An Uptown Manhattan Apartment Up-Ended
As key to the high-anxiety suspense of JOSHUA as the performances is the film's look – a lush, textured, sinuously moody view of an utterly upscale New York lifestyle turned into an accelerating maelstrom of terror. George Ratliff worked closely with Belgian cinematographer Benoit Debie, who garnered the Best Cinematography Award at Sundance for his stunning compositions for the film, and production designer Roshelle Berliner to create the film's compelling visuals.

The decision was made early on that the film could be shot nowhere other than New York City in order to capture the inimitable essence of the city, which is so much a part of the Cairns' high-flying lifestyle. Of course, as every filmmaker knows, shooting in New York – especially the ritzier side of New York -- can be prohibitively costly. Ratliff credits Roshelle Berliner with stretching every dollar to its limit in forging the film's luxuriant design.

Berliner fashioned the Cairn family's lavish 15th Floor Upper East Side apartment out of an unlikely abandoned building in Queens, completely reshaping and modifying the interior, then furnishing it in modern Manhattan style.

Typical of what a successful hedge fund manager could afford, the Cairns live in a so-called "Classic Seven,” a seven-room apartment affording them the rare Manhattan privilege of wide-open space, including a separate living room, dining room, kitchen, baby's room and the long, dark hallways that add to the film's gripping ambiance. By hanging a giant Chromatron slide of a verdant Central Park view as a backdrop, the transformation was complete. (For the exterior, a Fifth Avenue building overhanging Central Park stood in.)

"I won't reveal all her secrets”, says Ratliff, "but let's just say Roshelle has an intrinsic understanding of the taste of wealthy New Yorkers and the auction and product placement markets, and she managed to navigate these worlds while creating ours.”

Other locations in the film are instantly recognizable, including the Brooklyn Museum, upon whose stairs the film's riveting climax takes place. "I know it's been said before,” says Ratliff, "but we really tried to make New York City a character in the movie, and we chose locations so that we could really get the city get behind the actors.” He continues, "I couldn't imagine making this movie anywhere but New York. There was talk of making it in Canada or Rhode Island or someplace else but that would have gutted the movie somehow. The cityscapes, Central Park, and the Brooklyn Museum, are all huge elements within the movie that you just can't fake.”

Capturing Berliner's sets and the actors performances with a stark, strong visual aesthetic are the icily creative compositions of cinematographer Benoit Debie, whose work further highlights the film's psychological shadings. Best known for shooting Gaspar Noé's controversial French shocker IRREVERSIBLE, in which he demonstrated his rare technical gifts with shady atmospheres, Debie drew the attention of Ratliff, who was convinced that Benoit had just the right hard-to-nail sensibility he needed for JOSHUA.

"IRREVERSIBLE was dark and claustrophobic and Benoit's photography had as much to do with the impact of that movie as the acting and the narrative. But he also shot two other stunningly beautiful movies, INNOCENCE and THE ORDEAL. For THE ORDEAL, Benoit used a full-bleach bypass process that made it one of the starkest movies I've ever seen. What's so scary is that it's so cold. The colors are correct and true, but arctic. And that's almost where we end up in JOSHUA.”

Debie shifts the film's look inconspicuously over time in sync with the darkening mood. "It's a subtle thing,” explains Ratliff. "At the beginning we were going for a warmer look: this is a happy family during a happy time, and everyone looks great, so we<


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