Hungarian d.p. Gyula Pados’ advice to young cinematographers is to “never think about the light, think about the story.” This is precisely what he did to capture the splendor of 18th-century England in the “The Duchess,” and the results are luminous.
“One of my problems with period films is that the costumes, the look and historical details can create a kind of distance between the audience and the film,” he says. “What is different in this script is that Georgiana’s (Keira Knightley) story is so personal and intimate.”
Pados shot the beginning — Georgiana’s happier days — with bright lights and strong colors, but as the story darkened, he subdued the color and used symmetry to render the misery of Knightley’s character.
“Some of my favorite scenes are the dining room scenes,” Pados says. “We had a 6-meter-long dinner table with the Duke and Georgiana on the end. There is a wide symmetric shot of the table. This shot tells a lot, it’s a very uncomfortable rigid picture. There is huge distance between them. You can feel they are never going to reach each other. and there is no chance.”
That Pados fell in love with film at an early age might account for his present-day interest in storytelling. “I think I was 11 when I watched ‘The Deer Hunter,'” he says. It was after seeing “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” likewise shot by acclaimed Hungarian d.p. Vilmos Zsigmond, that he decided to be a cinematographer. After film school, his first offer was to shoot “Hotel Splendide” with Daniel Craig and Toni Colette. He has since shot two films for fellow Hungarian d.p. Lajos Koltai, including “Fateless,” for which he won the Golden Frog at Cameraimage, and last year’s “Evening,” which garnered him best cinematography laurels at the Copenhagen Intl. Film Fest.
Films that changed my life: “The Deer Hunter,” “Scarecrow” (both shot by Vilmos Zsigmond); “Mephisto” (Lajos Koltai)
Mentor or inspiration: Lajos Koltai
Tool I can’t do without: “I find a different one on every film.”
Rep: Dench Arnold Agency in London; the Skouras Agency Stateside.