All Oscar Faura asked for were sunny days on the set of “The Impossible” in Thailand. But when the rain poured down on what were supposed to be dry and muggy locations, the d.p. moved quick to create an illusion.
“Believe it or not, half of the day exteriors are shot using windows of light in between the clouds,” Faura says. “We got rain almost every shooting day.”
You’d never know it from the final cut of the tsunami drama that recreates the 2004 natural disaster with unblinking realism. Faura spent much of the shoot obsessed over consistent lighting, which he said is the most important factor in crafting realism.
Director Juan Antonio Bayona, a longtime collaborator, wanted the film to combine both documentary-style techniques and a more traditional cinematic look.
“He asked me to shoot the movie in a way that the audience would be able to smell the sweat at the hospital and feel Thailand’s hot weather,” Faura says. “Both sensations appeal to senses that cinema doesn’t stimulate directly.”
While the film captures one family’s struggle against the elements, it’s also an ode to the Southeast Asians who were devastated by the destruction. Visually, Faura tells both stories by favoring close-up shots for main characters, while occasionally pulling back to observe the wreckage and suffering around them.
The film was a notable departure for the d.p., who is best known for the moody interiors of supernatural thrillers “The Orphanage” and “Julia’s Eyes.”
His biggest challenge was lensing the flood waters, he says, whether it was the big wave that devastates the resort or Naomi Watts drowning as she was struck with debris.
“All the water scenes are extended and improved digitally but were shot in-camera,” he says.
Faura’s next project is “Mindscape,” a noir thriller about a detective who can enter people’s memories. He split the film into two styles: present-day events are lensed with dollys, cranes and tripods, while flashbacks are captured with handheld cameras.
Favorite tool: Telescopic crane. “It is a precise and fast tool to have on the set.”
Inspiration: “For ‘The Impossible’ I watched Barry Ackroyd’s work in ‘United 93’ and ‘The Hurt Locker’ to find keys to the documentary style. In general, I admire the work of Roger Deakins. I love the apparent simplicity of his lighting and his elegance. His career is stunning.”