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Why Does Every Scene in 'House of Cards' Look the Same?

Something's fishy about Igor Martinovic's cinematography, and producer Chris Wade may have figured it out.
March 10, 2015, 12:00am
Image: Netflix

There's something about House of Cards' visual style that matches its unsavory nature. The reveal of certain objects, like Season 3 Episode 6's finished mandala, for instance, becomes a dance of cross-cuts, the camera circling around the sand artwork we've watched monks painstakingly lay throughout the entire episode without ever fully capturing its fleeting beauty. Perhaps it's symbolic of the nature of the Underwoods' relationship, as the episode seems to suggest, or simply a metaphor for the tantalizing, gridlocked battle of wills we watch transpire between characters, only to watch them, like the mandala, inevitably get brushed away. Then again, maybe it's just good TV.

Slate Video producer Chris Wade asked similar questions about the show's cinematography after listening to Go Creative Show's 2014 podcast interview with House of Cards' cinematographer Igor Martinovic. The conversation prompted him to seek out what he sees as "a particular habit of the House of Cards color palette," that is, that "Almost every single frame of this show is composed to place a pale blue object in the foreground with a pale yellow light in the background." Wade decided to test this hypothesis out for himself, the result of which is viewable in the video demonstration above. Says Wade, "I chose three episodes from seasons one and two, scrubbed randomly through them, and excerpted a shot from the scenes I landed on. Every scene I found contained this color combination." The cut makes a pretty convincing argument for a consistency in Martinovic's camera blocking. But is it causal, or coincidence? Maybe it's just the result of the characters' affinity for dark-colored suits. Or, maybe it's a subliminal message from David Fincher about the greener pastures of which politicians keep getting in the way. Then again, maybe it's just good TV.


Either way, it makes for a fascinating window into the dark drama that is House of Cards.

Interested in learning more? Click here to learn about why House of Cards' theme song sounds the way it does.


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