Killers of the Flower Moon, USA 2023. Directed by Martin Scorsese, written by Eric Roth & Martin Scorsese. Based on Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann.
CineStar Theater 2, Row 6, Seats 11+12. Original version.
(This post originally appeared, in slightly different form, at my Instagram account betweendrafts.)
You might have heard that the movie’s running time is three and a half hours (206 min), but don’t let that keep you. It’s worth every minute, and it doesn’t feel that long at all. There’s no official intermission, but some movie theaters give you a ten-minute break—which, however, isn’t appreciated by the production studio.
Killers of the Flower Moon could have been a very different movie, one that was well on its way already. The screenplay is based on David Grann’s book of the same name, which focuses on the investigations (I’ve read it, it’s excellent), and DiCaprio was supposed to play Agent White. But then two things happened: DiCaprio didn’t want to be typecast and switched roles to play one of the perpetrators instead, and Scorsese worked much closer together with the members of the Osage tribe than anyone had planned. Thus, the focus of the movie shifted away from the investigations to the lives and times of the people involved, a fantastic choice of perspective.
Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography is superb. He went to great lengths and used clever tricks to pull off the kind of authentic period look they had in mind. As they couldn’t use vintage lenses, because they weren’t capable of shooting the vast landscape in anamorphic wide-screen, Prieto and Panavision’s engineer Dan Saska crafted their own custom lenses. They put 1950s optics inside modern Panavision T series lenses and then shot most of the movie on film (Arricam LT+ST with Kodak 5207+5219), with only some scenes—mostly night scenes—in digital (Sony Venice). What’s more, a Petzval lens with its slight frame distortions was used for the overhead shots of dead bodies, and the final newsreel scene was shot on Scorsese’s own cleaned-up and restored hand-cranked 1917 Bell & Howell.
So, beyond a fantastic movie you really need to watch, be prepared for a king-size box of cinematographic treats!
If you have something valuable to add or some interesting point to discuss, I’ll be looking forward to meeting you on Mastodon!