The 10 Most Visually Stunning Movies Shot by Vittorio Storaro

5. Caravaggio (Angelo Longoni, 2007)


Caravaggio was an artist who took saints and their stories as subjects. Though he, much like other painters of his time, chose religious subjects for his works, mixing them with reality. That’s the reason behind the repetitive faces of characters in the artist’s paintings, presenting reality as an artistic interpretation. Storaro’s style in Caravaggio is quite similar to Caravaggio’s very style of painting.

Basing on the fact that the painter’s work have a touch of documentary (he re-utilized streets he actually strode on and faces he really encountered), the visual texture of Caravaggio refers to the crude similar appearance of the painter’s life.

Any other visual elements that are used in this film are done as a reference to Caravaggio paintings, such as internal dark scenes which are partly illuminated, high contrast images and sincere violence that Caravaggio has used in embodying the most sacred characters of Catholicism: Jean Baptist is beheaded in a dark corner of a dense dead-end, the killer is pressing down his head on the footpath, his main vein is cut and he looks thrilled, pale face as his body is emptying from blood.

The peak of the tragedy is a man who is peering through his window, looking out but not interfering with what is happening right out of his house. Caravaggio is famous for humanizing religious events and characters and this is the same thing that Storaro applies as his visual style of the film.


4. The Sheltering Sky (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1990)

The Sheltering Sky film

Lots of Storaro’s decisions, as also has been mentioned in the above examples, have been made considering the chosen geographical territory in which the narrative is taking place. Though in case of Sheltering Sky, on the contrary of Last Tango’s case, sharp isolated colors come out of the visual texture and attract the visual attention of the spectator.

Playing with the concepts like architecture in movement and moving through architecture seem to be the very subject of Storaro’s lifetime research. His mode of lighting is an attempt to unify characters with their surrounding ambient or oppositely, in some cases separate the characters from the ambient, as if they do not belong to that very location.


3. The Last Emperor (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1987)

The Last Emperor

If any of these examples has to represent a dominant color in its visual texture, The Last Emperor is absolutely yellow. A color which undoubtedly reminds us both royalty and Far East.

During the sequences that are actually happening after the end of emperor’s rule, this sharp dominant colorful expression is absent; simply because the communism and modern life outside of the Forbidden City is surrounded by another color, gray.


2. The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970)


This Bertolucci film, like many of his works, is based on a book. In this case the book is The Conformist by Alberto Moravia. The architectural elements and geometric visual composition of the film, goes far in establishing the film’s Fascist period atmosphere.

The color are desaturated, though every once in a while the lights of a passing car or a desk lamp cause a break in the monotone atmosphere that tends to turn every other color gray. Another result of weakening the color saturation in The Conformist is the fact that these sharply colored objects normally stand out in the picture. Storaro’s work in The Conformist, in visual representation and geometrical composition, is simply exceptional.


1. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)

Apocalypse Now

The night scenes in Apocalypse Now are numerous, and that’s where the Storaro’s work shines. Since the story takes place at night, in a natural location, Storaro uses natural sources of light to illuminate these scenes. Since the story occurs during war, there are various options available in illuminating the night scenes. The night scenes in Apocalypse Now are filled with colorful raining flares and distant light sources, which are logical for the location.

In Apocalypse Now, the light is one of the main visual elements used to create the sense of life in wartime. The most crucial interior scenes occur in daytime, when the available natural light is limited. The most crucial of these scenes are the ones in Colonel Kurtz’s (Marlon Brando) temple.

The face of the searched-for man gives sense to the film’s odyssey and is hidden in shadows. Instead of facing the man in broad light, all that is seen is a part of his face, an ear, his skull blocking his arched down face. Apocalypse Now is a masterpiece of light orchestration. It’s the best example of a cinematic work which narratively justifies the utilized light sources of the story.

Apart from the night scenes, most of other scenes are shot during the magic hour, a difficult shooting period which works as an extremely powerful visual element. The constant framing of the characters in sunrise and sunset, indicates a narrative threshold. Though the characters are moving constantly, continuing their journey, they seem to be frozen in time.

Author Bio: Maryam Raz is a freelance filmmaker and screenwriter. La Mite based on The Gentle Spirit of Dostoyevsky is her most recent work.