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DOUBT

The Design
To open Doubt outwards from the narrower confines of the theatrical stage to the broader, more fluid, three-dimensional energy of the screen, John Patrick Shanley had a very specific stylistic vision, at once minimalist and visually engaging. "I wanted the environment around the characters to be stark, yet very vibrant and alive, so that against it, their humanity would really register,” he explains. "The physical environment of the film became a way to reinforce the drama, the tension, the emotions. So the ringing of a phone that isn't answered becomes like the sinking of the Titanic to Sister James and Father Flynn adjusting the Venetian blinds in Sister Aloysius' office becomes a parry in the battle between them. Every single camera move had to be justified by either adding something to the storytelling or to the portrayal of the characters. Everything in the design of the film exists as a reflection of what the characters are saying, thinking and feeling.”

For Shanley, there was never any doubt that Doubt would be shot on location in the Bronx, in the very same working class, Catholic neighborhood that had been the raw inspiration for his play in the first place. "This is a New York story,” says Shanley, "and I wanted to go back and shoot in those same locations where I grew up. It adds a richness and a texture that you can't replicate anywhere else.”

Ultimately, the fictitious St. Nicholas church and parochial school would be created by knitting together several different locations throughout New York City. Most of the interiors were shot at the College of Mount St. Vincent in the Bronx, which was founded by the Sisters of Charity as the first women's college in New York City. Standing in for the school's exterior is St. Anthony's, Shanley's original grade school in the Parkchester area, while the church exterior is St. Augustine's, also in the Bronx. Classrooms were filmed at the original Girls High School (now the Brooklyn Adult Learning Center), a Bedford-Stuyvesant landmark before the Civil War. Meanwhile, the courtyard, garden and nuns' dining rooms are those of St. Luke in the Fields on Christopher and Hudson Streets; and the basement, gym and lunchroom scenes were shot at St. Mark's Lutheran School in Yonkers.

For the film's interiors, especially inside St. Nicholas Church and School, Shanley took his cues from the idea of a season of change. "This is a film that takes place in the autumn -- not just the autumn of the year, but the autumn of an era in which ideas that were once vibrant and green have now turned brown and are falling to the ground,” he explains. "They're about to be replaced by the fresh sprigs of a new time, a new zeitgeist in the culture. So we emphasized that with the use of surprising colors in the interior scenes. The feeling of Sister Aloysius' office is that is you're looking from a very vibrant green room out the window to a drained-away world of leafless trees and sidewalks scorched by the cold.”

The elements themselves are suddenly intruding on this world, as Sister Aloysius is plagued throughout the story by a fierce wind she tries to keep at bay. "Windows keep opening and the wind keeps getting into places it shouldn't be and Sister Aloysius keeps closing those windows,” Shanley remarks. "It seems to be the winds of change.”

To capture all of this on celluloid, Shanley worked closely with his director of photography, seven-time Academy Award® nominee Roger Deakins, who he says was able to beautifully compose the sharp and stark angles that create the film's overarching ambience of disorientation. "Roger is not only one of the best cameramen alive,” comments Shanley, "he also has very pure aesthetic and a kind of austerity in camera movement that was so important for what I wanted to do for Doubt. He understood that I had something very specific I wanted to<

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