Enchanting Cinematic Mastery: Hanqing Ma’s Visual Splendor in ‘Anna’

Los Angeles, CA (April 19, 2024) – Fairy tales have been around for hundreds of years. Their ubiquity has made it an almost unattainable goal to find new interest in them, particularly when it comes to an adult audience. This is precisely what should pique your interest in seeing “Anna,” the recent film which depicts a young girl’s adventures and confrontation with a witch. A major reason for the attention this film has been receiving is the remarkable visual style crafted by cinematographer Hanqing Ma for this production. The film’s visuals are heavily influenced by classic fairy tales, with dark and foreboding forest scenes and a sense of danger lurking around every corner. Hanqing is clear about his aspirations, stating, “Through the use of atmospheric cinematography, music, and sound design, we can immerse the audience in a world of magic and wonder. It’s such an amazing thing to offer an audience, this feeling of entering a different world. It’s overwhelming to me sometimes.” “Anna” received awards for Best Cinematography, Best USA film, and Best Young Actress at the New York Cinematography Awards, Best Fantasy Film at the Los Angeles Film Awards, in addition to recognition from the Canadian Cinematography Awards and Los Angeles Cinematography Awards. “Anna” is an official selection of the Arpa International Film Festival and NICE International Film Festival.

The first moments of “Anna” attest to the mastery of Hanqing Ma in manifesting a universal mood for an expansive audience. The opening scene, with its meticulous attention to light, color, and atmosphere, serves as a perfect encapsulation of the film’s intended style, promising a cinematic journey that is both visually stunning and emotionally resonant. Young Anna (actress Brielle Verduzco-Murphy) plays with her favorite toy in her bedroom, bathed in warm light enhanced by the subtle intrusion of moonlight that somehow hints at mystery. A mix of colors communicates the complexity that awaits in Anna’s night. When her father (Jason Fay) tells her a cautionary bedtime story about the need for children to go to bed, Anna’s slumber that night is disturbed by a witch (Alison Brown, whom audiences will recognize from her role in “Star 80” alongside Oscar-nominated actors Mariel Hemingway and Eric Roberts).

Director of photography Hanqing Ma conveys the importance of his lighting design in establishing the proper tone for this fairy tale. He states, “The main lighting setup for this film is to bring the contrast between natural fire warm light and cold blue moonlight. It doesn’t only create a strong colorful contrast image, it also looks naturally beautiful. Fire and moon are very common in our daily life and it adds the feeling that Anna and Henry’s lives are related to that of a normal family. Anna’s bedroom has a slightly warmer tone than Henry’s because I wanted to emphasize the love from the father to daughter in the cold winter night.

For the interior scenes, I took advantage of the fireplace to simulate the warm light from the fire to the actor and actress. It feels natural and beautiful and uses the chiaroscuro lighting technique to create contrast and beautiful images.” Ma’s explanation is humble in describing the look of this film, which is as enchanting as it is frightening at moments. The visual style of “Anna” is exactly what one would hope for in a film that brings fantasy imagination to the screen. “Anna” is pure escapism in the most pleasing of ways. This twist on a traditional idea is both familiar and surprising, thanks in great part to the choices its cinematographer has made. Rebuking a CGI tactic to prompt the audience to buy deeply into their own imagination, “Anna” feels very much like a book come to life. (By Staff writer Richard Ren/LAPost)