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Dante Spinotti on Jolanta Dylewska

Eye on the Oscars: The Cinematographer

As a cinematographer, when you light and shoot a scene, you always have to keep the light source in mind at all times. Most of Agnieszka Holland’s “In Darkness,” which I saw at the Plus Camerimage film festival in Poland where it won the top award, is set underground. There is no light source other than the flashlights that these people are using, and sometimes not even those. That is a very tricky thing to do. And I think that that d.p. Jolanta Dylewska — along with the production designer and the director — really pulled it off. I just found her ability to shoot in inhospitable places to be really remarkable.

One of my favorite shots comes toward the end when Leopold (Robert Wieckiewicz) pulls the little girl through the manhole cover into the light. This is the first time that she has seen daylight in 14 months. The change in that scene took my breath away. It’s such a beautiful movement.

The film was shot primarily with a RED digital camera, with some 35 mm work as well, and the effect is overwhelming. This is one the finest films that I have seen in the last few years, and I think that a lot of that is Dylewska’s achievement. Her work is not polished; it is not beautiful; but it is believable. And that is always precisely the point.

Dante Spinotti, the latest recipient of the ASC’s Lifetime Achievement Award, has worked repeatedly with Michael Mann and Curtis Hanson

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