5 Traits of Denis Villeneuve’s Signature Filmmaking Style

By Sam Fraser

The decades-spanning career of Québécois director Denis Villeneuve can be aptly described as a slow-burning firework; his stardom and popular critical renown years in the making. With beginnings in French Canadian cinema with films such as Maelström, Polytechnique and August 32nd on Earth after studying the art at Université du Québec à Montréal, Villeneuve’s works gradually took on a more international audience beginning with the massively ambitious Incendies in 2010, and he soon burst into the Anglophone zeitgeist with big-name, bigger-budget Hollywood fare such as 2013’s Prisoners, the enigmatic Enemy, and 2015’s Sicario. The 2016 release of Arrival guaranteed Villeneuve multiple Oscar nods and the shot at cinematic royalty with Blade Runner 2049; his acclaimed sequel to Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi epic.

Through his journey from relative obscurity as French Canadian cinema’s best kept secret to the grandmaster of the cerebral blockbuster subgenre, Denis Villeneuve has never compromised his personal filmmaking style. Villeneuve’s films can be singled out by their adherence to a set of characteristics such as a defined, thematically constructed colour palette, the dichotomy of strong-willed women and compromised men, experimental and ambient scores typically masterminded by Jóhann Jóhannsson, daring plot twists that challenge the spectator, and finally the meticulous, patient and voyeuristic cinematography—typically credited to Roger Deakins. Here are some examples of how Denis Villeneuve’s signature aesthetic manifests in his work…

1. Atmospheric Score

Villeneuve’s early films don’t incorporate the ambient scores of his Hollywood pictures but instead opt for thematically relevant use of popular songs and leitmotifs. In August 32nd on Earth (Un 32 août sur terre) we hear the recurrence of Tout écartillé by Robert Charlebois, which in the context of the film feels painfully misplaced and comically unwelcome.

Villeneuve’s sense of irony is further showcased in Maelström with the use of Good Morning → continue…

From:: Taste Of Cinema