Mark Pellington / Screen Gems
Arlington Road, starring Jeff Bridges and Tim Robbins, tells the story of a widowed college professor named Michael Faraday (Bridges) living in suburban Reston, Virginia, with his 9-year-old son. Three years prior, his wife, an FBI-agent, was killed during a sting operation. Troubled that the FBI failed to take responsibility for her death, Michael is never able to fully come to grips with the situation. When an all American family moves into the neighborhood, a series of events leads Michael to believe there is something hiding behind their façade. Michael soon uncovers the truth that his new neighbors are domestic terrorists, plotting their next attack.
While at Imaginary Forces, Kyle Cooper collaborated with the director of Arlington Road, Mark Pellington, to create the main title sequence for the paranoia thriller. The dark themes of the film, evil hiding in plain sight, mistrust of ones neighbors, drove the visual language of the opening credits, presenting white picket fenced neighborhoods with a sinister and haunting semblance. From the beginning of the process, Cooper and Pellington agreed that they could capture the forbidding sequence without filming horrifying imagery, rather, the innocuous communities would be embellished in a threatening tone through in-camera contrivances and reactive edits. Cooper directed the 2nd unit shoot with three cameras in tow, including a 16mm Bolex and a hand cranked 35mm, shot guerrilla style in the suburbs of Los Angeles. The examination of these perceived safe areas to live is embodied through details of the neighborhoods, fences, American flags, a family dog, shrubbery in front of houses, swing-sets, all attributes of suburban America. An intricate fusion of double exposures, inverted colors schemes, varying frame rates, and the orange film roll outs from the 16mm camera were implemented to heighten Michael Faraday’s suspicious peculiarity, and the disturbing aura of the edit. The live action sequence is a foreboding juxtaposition of the evil that breeds on Arlington Road.
As Mark Pellington recounts working with Kyle: “There was kind of a mutual respect ’cause I came from a nastier, non-slick, organic, in-camera background and comfort zone. When I met Kyle [Cooper] I basically begged him to do the titles for Arlington Road.” The film went on to be nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Thriller Film.