Mufeng Han’s Damaged Perspective is Remarkable

An “edge of your seat” suspenseful drama doesn’t need to contain CGI or practical effects to focus your attention like a tractor beam. The requirements are a great script and a cinematographer like Mufeng Han who understands how to create the emotional space to transport a viewer into the environment that the director desires. Damaged is the type or nerve wracking tale that is one-hundred percent believable but it’s the manner in which Mufeng places you inside the emotional core of the film’s characters which produces such a strong reaction in audiences. Known for the same effect in award-winning films like Patrick (with wins from the New York Film Awards, the Los Angeles Film Awards, etc.) and Son of Wanderer (London Independent Film Awards, Los Angeles Film Awards, Mindfield Film Festival, International Independent Film Awards, Rome Independent Prisma Awards, etc.), Han has become acclaimed in the modern film industry for his vision and insight through the camera lens. In a medium which is flush with offerings, Mufeng’s signature style is resulting in a very busy filming schedule.

The relationship between director and actor can be as different as the people involved in these vocations throughout the industry. Damaged director Wendi Sun is known for his focus on the actors in his films, resulting in a heavy reliance on his DP for the visual language of a film. This was a welcome scenario for Mufeng to fully flex his creative muscles in designing shots for this production. Armed with the information that Sun wanted the heavy and somber feeling of the story’s funeral scene to permeate the entire film, Han crafted a visual perspective through the camera congruent to this.

Damaged is the story of a murder cover-up which takes places in the US military while at war. When one soldier [Warren] kills another [Henry], their Sergeant [Michael] decides to make it look like an accident to protect the one left alive. Time cultivates guilt in Warren until he can no longer live with this secret. The story begins with this accidental murder and the intensity of the moment is transmitted with Han’s almost claustrophobic camera close ups. These frantic moments are communicable via the lens, allowing the audience to feel the panic inside Warren’s first moments as he senses what he’s just done. This approach is contradicted by what we witness at Henry’s funeral as the agonizing slow dolly shots emphasize the anger percolating inside Warren, accentuated by the Sergeant’s lies during his speech at the service. Subtle but notable is the high contrast lighting which never fully reveals the complete face of the main characters. This implies that we never see their “real” face or know their true selves. It’s this “under the radar” cinematography which adeptly encourages the audience to believe the characters as Wendi and the actors have interpreted them. The synergy between camera, director, and actors is astounding in Damaged.

Wendi Sun noticed Mufeng’s cinematography in Patrick and recognized the DPs ability to channel but not over stylize the emotional action of a scene. In Damaged, Han once again proves himself to be as committed to storytelling as the visual presentation of it.

Written by Patrick Wilson

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