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Sven Nykvist


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#1 Tim Carroll

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 06:58 PM

I am researching Sven Nykvist and the techniques he used in his "simplification" of lighting. I have read a number of interesting anecdotes, especially about his work with Bergman.

I am wondering if anyone knows of any books or Video/DVD's that give more detail about his lighting. I would love to know more about how he lit "Persona" and "Shame" and some of his other B&W work, as well as his later pieces like "Unbearable Lightness" and "Gilbert Grape".

Has anyone seen the documentary his son did, "Light Keeps Me Company"? From reading about it, it sounds to be more about his life in general as opposed to information about the way he worked.

Has anyone read his book "Vördnad för ljuset (Veneration of Light)" (which unfortunately for me is in Swedish, a language I don't know)? Is it a book about his lighting techniques?

Has anyone read "Making Pictures: A Century of European Cinematography"? Amazon.com has Sven listed as one of the authors, but then in the description of the book, he is only mentioned in passing. Does this book have much information on his lighting style and technique?

And David Mullen had mentioned a "making of" that was part of "Fanny and Alexander", does this cover much about his lighting?

Thanks for any and all info.

-Tim
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#2 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 02:55 AM

Has anyone read "Making Pictures: A Century of European Cinematography"? Amazon.com has Sven listed as one of the authors, but then in the description of the book, he is only mentioned in passing. Does this book have much information on his lighting style and technique?

Hi Tim,

I have this book, and have found it to be a great resource. It's not written by Sven Nykvist though - it's more of a collection of essays on the cinematographer's role in European filmmaking, with Mr. Nykvist contributing a few pages to the chapter on "The Cinematographer's View." Other contributers include Jack Cardiff, Luciano Tovoli, Guiseppe Rotunno, and Bernardo Bertolucci.

The majority of the book celebrates the cinematography of 100 European films, from 1914 to 1995. Each film has a one page article about it and several film frames in their correct aspect ratio (some films have more than others). Every color film (even color-tinted B&W films like "Cabiria") has full color stills. Each DP only has one film on the list - Nykvist's entry is "Cries and Whispers."

I love the book because it contains many films that I've heard of but haven't seen yet (and many I haven't heard of at all), and seeing the frames gives me a reference for the discussions we have on this forum. For example, Ossie Morris's desaturated Technicolor work on "Moulin Rouge" (1953), Sergei Urusevski's wide-angle compositions on "The Cranes Are Flying," and Geoffrey Unsworth's scope compositions on "Tess."

Here's my favorite still from the book:
[attachment=1695:attachment]
Director Jean Renoir holds Curt Courant steady for a shot in La Bete humaine (1938). Courant is using a Cinex camera, one of the first hand-held cameras, made by Bourdereau in France. Looks kinda like an Arri 435 to me.:)
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#3 Adam Wallensten

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 06:45 AM

Hi!

I've read his autobiography "Vördnad för ljuset" that you mentioned. It's a really good book, but deals more about his life as a cinematographer and his thoughts on the work and lighting, than it does with the technical aspect of his work. He talks about certain things and episodes regarding to lighting in some of his films though. I thought it was translated into english though. Read it if you can find it. He seemed to be a very humble and sympathetic person.
Another great biography is one by Nestor Almendros. I know that you are intrested in Nykvists specific work, but Almendros has a similar approach to lighting and he discusses the technical aspect more.


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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 10:36 AM

The best way of reading about Nykvist's lighting techniques is to dig up every magazine article ever written about his cinematography, like in AC magazine over the years. They ran a cover article on "Cannery Row" for example that was pretty thorough.
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#5 Byron Karl

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 11:30 AM

I saw the documentary and it wasn't really that interesting. It doesn't really go much into details. As for the book, it's mainly a coffee table piece.

There is a collection of outtakes from that Tarkovsky film that he shot, that have commentary and illuminate the approach. You should track those down.
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#6 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 02:47 PM

Here's my favorite still from the book:
[attachment=1695:attachment]
Director Jean Renoir holds Curt Courant steady for a shot in La Bete humaine (1938). Courant is using a Cinex camera, one of the first hand-held cameras, made by Bourdereau in France. Looks kinda like an Arri 435 to me.:)

---A bit small for a 435.
But the viewing would be directly on the film. No tricky mirrors involved.
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#7 Adrian Levander

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 03:32 PM

Hi!

There's a 50-minute film about his work on the sacrifice. It consists of on-set interviews with Nykvist about his lightning techniques on that film and on his collaboration with tarkovsky. I had the luck of finding it in my local library but doubt that it's been released with english subtitles.

There is also a good 1 h 40 minutes documentary about the production of the sacrifice with more interviews with Nykvist and also brings up his work in post to achieve the look on that film. It was released with the anniversity dvd of the Sacrifice.

I can also recommend the behind the scenes documentary of fanny & alexander. Found that one really interesting. think that one is one the criterion dvd.

Pretty much what I can think of...

Sorry for the poor grammar!

/Adrian

Edited by Adrian Levander, 19 January 2007 - 03:34 PM.

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#8 Greg Gross

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 07:58 PM

This extraordinary cinematographer has recently passed away at the age of 84.
God bless him. Quote by Sven Nykvist from the book Cinematography/Screencraft,
Focal Press:

"When we came to the film Persona,we virtually discarded the medium shot. We went
from wide shots to close-ups and vice versa. Ingmar had seen a certain resemblance
between Liv Ullman and Bibi Anderson ,and the idea had dawned of making a film about
identification between two people who come close together and start to think the same
thoughts. The film gave me the opportunity to explore my fascination with the face, which
has earned me my nick name , "two faces and a teacup". One of the most difficult tasks
for me on Persona was to light the close-ups because they involved such incredible nuance.
I like to see reflections in the eyes...which irritates some directors,but is true to life. Captur-
ing these reflections helps to give the impression of a human being thinking. Its very impor-
tant to me to light so that you can sense what lies behind a character's eyes. I always aim to
catch the light in the eyes, because I feel they are the mirror of the soul. Truth in the actor's
eyes and very small changes in expression can reveal more than a thousand words".

-Sven Nykvist-
Quote:
"There is nothing that can ruin an atmosphere so easily as too much light. Sometimes I think
having less money can lead to more artistry. Above all else, the cinematographer must be an
absolute slave to the screenplay; This means being able to change one's style for every picture.
Each time I start working on a film ,I ask myself how I can help the audience to look at the right
thing. Is it the actors? Or is it the mood? Or is it the dialogue? I have to confess that dialogue rich
films are not my favourites, and this is why I have a little difficulty with american scripts. A hand-
ful of principles have defined my life as a cinematographer. Be true to the script. Be loyal to the
director. Be able to adapt and change one's style. Learn simplicity. I would also say that a cinema-
tographer should direct at least one film. As a cameraman ,it is easy to become a technical freak.
The experience of writing and editing a film enables one to understand the whole creative process
of filmmaking".
-Sven Nykvist-
I hope these quotes will give you an insight about the creative thinking of a great cinematographer.

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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 08:25 PM

I don't have my notes here at work, but I recall American Cinematographer articles and interviews with Nykvist for: Cries and Whispers, The Dove -- I think that's what it was called, a low-budget American movie about a sailboat, but I may be confusing the title with the Bergman parody called "De Doova (the Dove)" -- the remake of "The Hurricane", "Cannery Row", "Unbearable Lightness of Being", "Chaplin", maybe "The Postman Always Rings Twice", maybe more. There was also a 1970's issue devoted to the Swedish film industry with an interview. And I think he was interviewed in the Ettedgui book "Cinematography Screencraft".
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#10 Tim Carroll

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 10:47 PM

I hope these quotes will give you an insight about the creative thinking of a great cinematographer.

Greg Gross



Thank you one and all. The suggestions are very helpful and have given me a place to start.

David, the box set of Bergman films which includes Persona and Shame has reprints from the American Cinematography April 1972 issue which was centered around the Swedish Film Industry. I found it very interesting.

Thanks again to everyone.
-Tim
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#11 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 20 January 2007 - 01:10 PM

I don't have my notes here at work, but I recall American Cinematographer articles and interviews with Nykvist for: Cries and Whispers, The Dove -- I think that's what it was called, a low-budget American movie about a sailboat, but I may be confusing the title with the Bergman parody called "De Doova (the Dove)" -- the remake of "The Hurricane", "Cannery Row", "Unbearable Lightness of Being", "Chaplin", maybe "The Postman Always Rings Twice", maybe more. There was also a 1970's issue devoted to the Swedish film industry with an interview. And I think he was interviewed in the Ettedgui book "Cinematography Screencraft".


Thre was an early 60s article, after 'Through a Lens darkly'. More of an overview of his work with bergman.
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#12 Tim Carroll

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 08:55 AM

Just got the latest issue of American Cinematographer and there are two really nice pieces on Sven. Any of you who don't subscribe might want to pick a copy up at the newsstand, definitely worth the cover price.

Now it's off to Barnes and Nobles to hunt for more DVD's of his work.

Thanks again folks,
-Tim
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