When it came time to shoot “The Theater and Its Double” — the seventh episode of “Euphoria’s” second season, Emmy-nominated for cinematography — Hungarian DP Marcell Rév already had some necessary experience.
Both episodes seven and eight of the HBO series’ follow the performance of Maude Apatow portrays Lexi, whose play is creatively shot in Season 2 of “Euphoria.” Lexi Howard’s (Maude Apatow) high school production of her original play, “Our Life,” based, very obviously, on the tribulations of her own friend group. The episode takes a creative approach to filming the play, hitting it from every possible angle and melding real life with the world of the performance.
Rév’s side gig in film school of shooting theatrical productions helped him prepare. This time around, he knew he wanted to take a brand-new approach, with custom film rolls (Kodak converted part of its factory to produce its Ektachrome stock in 35mm for the show), set design and camera techniques that are hard to find anywhere else, especially on television.
Here, Rév tells Variety about his unique artistry on the show and what he hopes other cinematographers can take from “Euphoria’s” methodology.
What was different for you this season from the last season?
It was a long journey from Season 1 to Season 2, just on a very practical level. We were shut down because of the pandemic and Sam [Levinson, the creator] came up with this idea to do these special episodes that aesthetically are a bridge between Season 1 and Season 2. It allowed us to experiment with things and find a different aesthetic. But we always knew that we wanted to do something different.
How did you approach shooting the play?
We really wanted to be in there with Lexi and the characters and experience it from the other side — not from the spectator side, but how it feels to be part of a theater play. We were using theater lighting, and not just for the theater part of it, but for the scenes in reality. We tried to mimic or use that lighting to exaggerate certain moments. It gives you a nice kind of freedom. It justifies a lot of expressionistic lighting situations in real scenes.
“Euphoria” often uses custom sets that allow the cameras to shoot from some creative angles; was that something that you had to do with the stage as well?
Some sets were designed from scratch for certain camera moves [by production designer Jason Baldwin-Stewart]. For example, there is this scene when Lexi is in Cassie’s bathroom and we look through it, and you can see real Cassie and then we go through the mirror and you see Lexi’s and Cassie’s play versions. You push through the mirror and then you follow Lexi onto the stage. There are a bunch of examples of that. Those things just have to be really well-rehearsed.
Would you say it’s rare in television to see a visual aesthetic as strong as the one “Euphoria” has become known for?
Just by the nature of episodic programming, you have to make it a factory to be able to reproduce. You’re not able to reproduce “Euphoria” without Sam Levinson. And that’s rare. Sam is involved in every episode, and it makes a project way more personal. I hope that’s a gateway for other people to do that in television. I’m not saying that the other version is bad because there are amazing television shows that are made the other way. But I think this is an interesting way to do television, and I hope that it opens up some doors for other directors to do it.