By: Jake Fallin
My favorite film from 2015 would probably be The Revenant. The film is directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu and stars Leonardo DiCaprio in first Oscar winning role as the frontiersman Hugh Glass. It’s story, acting, and setting are all wonderfully explored in the 1823 story of survival. But what stand out the most, are the jaw dropping visuals and cinematography. There’s a catch, though: There was absolutely zero use of artificial lighting.
Every single scene was shot with only natural light. That means light from the sun and (sometimes) fire. That is unheard of when it comes to big budget features. Artificial Lighting gives the director and cinematographer complete control over how an image will look, and is what usually separates amateurs from professionals. Film-makers need artificial lighting, so they can use any preference with camera settings and still produce a well-lit image. The Revenant gave this power back to nature.
Despite having way less control than a normal Hollywood big budget film, The Revenant is still gorgeous. Inarritu used his talents to capture the perfect lighting of each day. This meant that almost every single scene shot for this film, could only be shot at a certain time of day to get the absolute perfect lighting.
To go along with that struggle, many of the scenes that were shot are amazingly complex. Inarritu loves the long, swooping take. This in combination with giant intensely choreographed action sequences meant that actors, extras, camera men, and other workers on set had to practice and practice for hours or days on end. And when it was time to shoot, there was no room for mistakes, because the perfect time for shooting would only last an hour or two during the day.
The end result of all of this hard work is utterly breathtaking. There is something special about only using natural lighting, especially for a movie that takes place in the 1800’s American wilderness. It produces a kind kind of natural beauty, like nothing you’ve seen in a film before. There is no artificial highlight on characters to make them stand out of the background, but just the cold, brutal, and haunting beauty of a wonderful story.