Cinema aesthetics consist of various elements. From narrative structures and fluid direction to brilliant performances, perceptive cinematography remains of utmost importance. Cinematography has the power of visual storytelling and captures the sublime beauty of narratives by manipulating shadows, colours, light and frames.
Seamus McGarvey said, “a great cinematographer is one who loves story and makes the film beguiling and enticing” by using the power vested upon their creative genius. Cinematographers have the power to bring out the raw and intimate emotions in the films by adjusting camera angles and shots.
Over the last few decades, cinematographers have relentlessly worked to evolve technology, animation and other features to make the particular film memorable and explore new facets of creativity. Netflix has a wide variety of films, some of which are visually stunning and absolutely enticing.
Of many such films, here are five visually stunning films on Netflix that uphold the positives of exquisite cinematography and passionate filmmaking:
5 most visually stunning films to watch on Netflix
The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, 2021)
Based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel, Campion’s revisionist western subverts the image of the typical cowboy and explores themes like toxic masculinity, internalised homophobia and jealousy. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst, the film sees an intimidating and dominating cattle rancher at the centre whose authoritarian regime is disrupted by an interesting relationship he forges with a young boy.
Campion recreated the old American west in her own country of New Zealand. Filmed in various scenic locations, the brilliant camera angles upheld the rugged beauty of the landscapes that blended in well with the haunting background music.
Roma (Alfonso Cuaron, 2018)
The first-ever Mexican film to win Best Foreign Language Film, as well as the Best Cinematography and Best Director awards at the 91st Academy Awards, Cuaron’s Roma is a stellar example of the filmmaker’s artistic and emotionally resonating vision in monochrome. It reflects the artistic mood, memory, nostalgia and monotone of 1970s Roma via Cuaron’s deft use of intimacy and shadows.
Set in 1970-71 Mexico, ridden with the horrors and hardships of a student massacre, the film chronicles the life of an indigenous housekeeper, Cleo, who lives a simple life, caught between her duties as a devoted nanny and anxieties of impending motherhood.
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
Intimate and poignant, the frames in Moonlight uphold the palpable conflict in the mind of the lead protagonist, Chiron, an African-American boy, as he tries to grapple with sexuality and identity crises, abuse etc. It chronicles the stages of Chiron’s life, from childhood and adolescence to adulthood and follows his relationship with the drug-dealer Juan.
With three Academy Awards to its name, the film is a raw and poignant exploration of loneliness and identity conflict. Visually, the film is fluid and seductive as it employs subtle imagery for intricate character study. The sublime cinematography within the film adds to the mesmerisingly poetic vision of Jenkins leaving an indelible mark on the viewer’s minds.
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
Loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novel Heart of Darkness, Coppola’s magnum opus is a horrifying nightmare. With the Vietnam War in the backdrop, the film chronicles a river journey into Cambodia where the Captain is on a secret mission to assassinate the rebellious and elusive Colonel Kurtz who is rumoured to have descended into insanity.
Starring Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen and others, the film is a harrowing masterpiece. With mystic images, picturesque sceneries and an ominous setting, the dialogues are compelling and brilliant. Brando is unforgettable and surreal. All one can think of while watching the film is “The horror! The horror!”
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
Brilliant, surreal and spectacular, Spirited Away is inarguably one of Studio Ghibli’s most brilliant creations. An absolute visual delight for the audience with its rich burst of colours, detailed backgrounds, realistic imagery and fantasy elements, the Miyazakian realm is a brilliant escape from the drudgeries of everyday existence.
The first-ever hand-drawn, non-English animated film to win the Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards, Spirited Away is a tale of love, innocence and unwavering faith. It chronicles the quest of a strong ten-year-old protagonist named Chihiro who must save her parents from the curse of a witch with her guide Haku.