The intensity of Elvis in a tragic time
As iconic as Elvis Presley is today, in the late ’60s the King needed to resurrect his music career with a comeback tour. On Dec. 3, 1968, NBC aired his “’68 Comeback Special,” marking Elvis’ seven-year absence from the stage, an era when he focused on his film stardom. During rehearsals, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, deeply affecting the singer. He decided to include the ballad “If I Can Dream” following the tragedy. The poignant moment strikes a different chord from the rest of the special, as it’s dressed in minimalist style. Cinematographer Mandy Walker re-created the scene (performed by Austin Butler as Elvis) with meticulous detail, studying the precise camera angles and lighting of the performance. “The whole tone changes,” she says of that moment. “I was tasked with replicating the existing footage, but I added more complimentary lighting in that set to make it nicer on his face, intensify his eyes and give him shadows.” The camera moves to heighten the emotional drama as well. “At the end of the sequence, it’s a high shot of Elvis with very low depth of field, and you only see his eyes. That moment is about intensifying to the audience his reaction to what’s going on and his feelings.”
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