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Christian Berger on Roger Deakins

Eye on the Oscars: The Cinematographer

I communicated with Roger Deakins as he was prepping his first digital movie with the Alexa, “In Time,” and we exchanged a few experiences. After seeing the initial excerpts from his film, I had to admire his mastery in handling all lighting situations. His imagery is marked by simplicity and straightforwardness — no mishmash, not one movement that does not serve the story.

I believe the atmospheric quality of a movie is as important as the script, the director and, of course, the actors. I am always looking to reach for and preserve the beauty of natural light. With this in mind, I must confess that now with cameras like the Alexa we start a new era.

It happens right at the moment when the analog tools, cameras and negatives are better than ever before. But to use the really enormous range of effective 13 f-stops — the best behavior in the “underexposed” part of an image — holding a beautiful balance in color and contrast, with a really high transparency, gives us a new joy to play with.

For “In Time,” Deakins adapted these new tools to serve his own individual aesthetic, and it’s just as resplendent as anything he’s shot. His vision of a dystopian future is unique and gripping; his lighting is a sight to behold.

Berger, best known for his work with fellow Austrian Michael Haneke, most recently shot “Die Blutgrafin,” with Tilda Swinton and Isabelle Huppert.

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