The distinct bustling sound of a carnival rings out over a black screen, before fluttering to life with the impressive sight of a butterfly knife flinging back and forth in the hands of yet unknown man. The shot is framed in such a way that only the muscular torso can be seen; a canvas for his tattoos that show a character with a history of bad judgements and impulsive decisions. A faint voice hollers his name in the background, as he sticks the blade into the wall of his trailer and walks out the door, shirtless. The camera lingers behind him as he edges through the crowds in a seamless, four minute section – first he puts on his signature black Metallica shirt, then over that a red leather jacket that glistens in the chintzy glamour of the fairground lights. The flash-bulbs of a camera follow him into a packed tent; his name is announced over a speaker by a ponytailed announcer, before he mounts a bike next to two other riders; he is Luke and they are his Heartthrobs. The frame moves back and forth across his face, the first time we see it– an inked dagger drips a tear of blood under his left eye.
This is the breathtaking opening sequence of Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines, which is a testament to both his maturity as a director and the vision and guile of his cinematographer, Sean Bobbitt.