There was a moment on my walk this morning, at about 5:30 a.m., when I just stopped dead in my tracks and watched the horizon change from blue-black to blushing violet.
In the movie industry, this stretch of time is known as magic hour. Cinematographers who shoot in these few precious moments, if they know what they are doing, have the ability to create some of the most beautiful imagery one can imagine.
The best known example of an entire motion picture, shot almost exclusively at magic hour—sunset also qualifies as magic hour—is Days of Heaven (1978). The late Nestor Almendros ( 1930-1992) something of a genius, was Director of Photography (the great Haskell Wexler also worked as DP) and every frame of the film dazzles.
Though something of an art house movie, Days of Heaven had a profound effect on my psyche. As a young screenwriter, anxious to learn my craft, I managed to get hold of the shooting script and was struck by the manner in which the pared down language of Terence Malick’s screenplay managed to suggest the power of the final imagery.
Why do I bring this up the day before the 2012 presidential election?