Interiors is an online film and architecture journal, published by Mehruss Jon Ahi and Armen Karaoghlanian. Interiors runs an exclusive column for ArchDaily that analyzes and diagrams films in terms of space. Their Official Store will carry exclusive prints from these posts.
The first season of Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective, the product of creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Fukunaga, focuses on Detective Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Detective Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) as they search for clues on a grisly murder case. The series takes place in Louisiana in three distinct time periods; 1995, 2002 and 2012. Each time period has a distinct look, as characters and their surroundings change and evolve over time.
Cary Fukunaga, who comes from feature films such as Sin Nombre (2009) and Jane Eyre (2011), has always employed a distinct visual style in his work. In The Guardian, he discussed his approach to the direction of the show, noting that “one of my priorities as director was to defend craft despite the constraints on my time and budget.” In addition, he notes that he looked for specific moments in which he would treat the visual side of the medium with the same importance as the dialogue.
In the fourth episode, “Who Goes There,” he does just that, as he employs a lengthy, complex shot that brings the audience closer to the characters’ experience. This edition of INTERIORS will spatially break down that shot, revealing just how complex it was.
In this episode, Cohle and Hart search for Reggie Ledoux, their prime suspect, part of a biker gang known as the Iron Crusaders. Cohle worked with the Iron Crusaders when he was undercover in Texas, and he plans on going undercover again as a way of getting information about Ledoux’s whereabouts. In a bar, he meets with Ginger, a former friend from the Iron Crusaders, who enlists Cohle’s assistance in a hold up. Ginger’s plan is that their crew will hold up a house in a predominantly black neighborhood.
A six-minute unbroken take concludes the episode, beginning with the heist and ending with Cohle and Ginger’s escape.
The scene takes place in Beaumont, Texas but was filmed in an actual housing complex in Bridge City, Louisiana. The scene begins with Hart parked in the Elmwood Village Shopping Center, located in Harahan, Louisiana, across from the Mississippi River. Hart sits and listens to the Beaumont police scanner as he waits for Cohle.
The long take begins when Cohle sneaks up behind a man beside the house and remains unbroken until he and Ginger’s escape. In one continuous shot, the camera weaves in and out of homes in a housing complex; we become part of the action as we swerve around the characters. A shootout forces Cohle and Ginger to run out of the house, as we follow them, the camera pans up to the helicopter above them, before panning back down and following them inside another house. This seems like a logical place where the filmmakers could have cut from the long take, then stitched another shot together, but that wasn’t the case. The entire take, as a result, is authentic. These sorts of technical camera movements are more common in feature films, but in recent years, as television has more and more film directors at the helm, these sorts of filmmaking techniques have become much more common.
In the second house, Cohle calls Hart and asks that he pick them up from Emile Avenue in 90 seconds. Ginger exits the house first and runs toward the intersection of Lake and Alaska, where Cohle catches up with him. They then run through the laundry behind another house, loop around the north end to the back of this building, and hide behind a small dividing wall. They escape by climbing a fence, as the camera follows up along with them. This incredibly challenging effect was done through a weighted crane that lifted the camera above the fence. Hart then picks up Cohle and Ginger on Emile Avenue, the exact street that Cohle had mentioned on the phone.
The distance from Hart’s location in the parking lot to the spot that he picks up Cohle and Ginger is a total of six miles. If we assume that Hart is still in the parking lot where we last saw him, it’d be impossible for him to pick them up in 90 seconds. Hart, however, is listening to the police scanner, which means he could have potentially heard the approximate location of the raid and used that information as a way of getting closer to them. In one of the last shots we see him in, we see him picking up the police scanner and listening to the dispatch very closely. Hart was likely in the vicinity; otherwise it would have been impossible for him to travel the six-mile distance in the time required.
The scene, which was filmed in seven takes, required extensive preparation on the part of the filmmakers. Cary Fukunaga points out there were several elements that he planned on incorporating within the scene. “I wanted to see a helicopter. I wanted to go through houses, I wanted to go over fences, and I wanted it to be unbroken. This required the participation of all crew members. We required the involvement of every single department, like a live theatre show.” In addition, because the shot itself is unbroken, key crew members were positioned in various locations, waiting for their cues. This required make-up artists, stunt coordinators and a special-effects team to be on hand during the entire run and to hit their marks. The make-up artists, for instance, were on standby, so that they could quickly apply make-up on Ginger’s head. This was done in the phone conversation between Cohle and Hart. The camera briefly pans away from Ginger, which provided them with an opportunity to then apply his make-up for that specific moment in the scene.
In our reconstruction of this space, we designed a site plan diagram that is based on the six-minute continuous shot. The helicopter shot of the community at the start of the scene offers an expansive look at the space. The path of the camera is shown as a red dotted line and the beginning of the shot is noted with a circle. The camera moves horizontally during the entire shot until the end when Cohle and Ginger climb the fence. This is the only moment where the camera breaks the horizontal axis and travels vertically. In addition, we designed an elevation drawing that shows this moment and the final moment of the shot, where Cohle and Ginger enter the vehicle. In seeing the continuous shot in a technical drawing, we can better understand how the director was able to achieve the final result. The path is not only informative in a plan view, but also in elevation and section views because of the intricate camera techniques.
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Architectural Drawings and Graphics were created by INTERIORS (www.INTJournal.com)
Interiors is an online journal, published on the 15th of each month, in which films are analyzed and diagrammed in terms of space. It is run by Mehruss Jon Ahi and Armen Karaoghlanian. Check out their Website, Issuu Site and Official Store and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.