Magazine article American Cinematographer

Close-Up Bruno Delbonnel, ASC, AFC

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Close-Up Bruno Delbonnel, ASC, AFC

Article excerpt

When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you?

Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957).

Which cinematographers, past or present, do you most admire?

Sven Nykvist, ASC snowed me that light can be psychology. With Gianni di Venanzo, light can be architecture; with Giuseppe Rotunno, ASC, AIC, light is lyrical; with Vadim Yusov, light is spiritual; with Gordon Willis, ASC, light is a Greek tragedy; with Vittorio Storaro, ASC, AIC, light is emotional, and with Freddie Young, BSC, light is epic. I also admire Bob Richardson, ASC; Harris Savides, ASC; Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC; Janusz Kaminski; César Charlone, ABC, and Emmanuel Lubezski, ASC, AMC for exploring new ways of telling a story with light, just as Billy Bitzer, Eduard Tisse, Fritz Arno Wagner and Gregg Toland, ASC did.

What sparked your interest in photography?

Seeing that cinematography is definitely an art.

Where did you train and/or study?

I studied philosophy. Then I directed a short film and had Henri Alekan, AFC Beauty and the Beast) as my director of photography. He was a master. Working with him for only a week made me understand that I wasn't a director. I spent more time talking to him about light and composition than I did talking to the actors.

Who were your early teachers or mentors?

I didn't really have any. I guess I learned by looking at films. I was a camera assistant, and I don't think an AC can learn from a director of photography. But when you watch films at home, you can freeze the frame and study how the cinematographer lit a shot. I did it then, and I still do it. (I still don't understand how Roger Deakins and Bob Richardson do some light ... they have to explain it to me!)

What are some of your key artistic influences?

Music, architecture and sculpture, because they are all based on a structure and harmony. We could imagine a script being a score and play with light as if it were a variation on a theme. Light can be like a symphony with different movements, or like a Frank Gehry building with a lot of curves instead of straight lines, or like a sculpture with empty spaces inside a plain, marble block. Those different fields in art are playing with opposition: slow vs. fast, melodic vs. atonal, black vs. white, empty vs. plain. Cinematographers play with light vs. shadow. I'm being a bit simplistic, but that's the roots for me, I guess. …

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