Considering Emmanuel Lubezki’s work with directors Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant) stems from a mutual friendship and working relationship in their early, this allows him to garner a fair amount of trust from the two.
Of course, in general, Lubezki’s role – the role of the cinematographer in the typical film project – is “to visually represent the director’s vision” and take “careful control over lens selection, lighting, exposure, composition camera movement and image manipulation.” (Holben, 2016) This becomes evident when you witness the choices in cinematography that Lubezki makes in conjunction with his directing counterparts.
Lubezki admitted that for The Revenant, the starting point of the story was more about emotion rather than feel:
“We drove more than 10,000 miles together and then we walked a lot [over the course of] months and all the walks were very important because I was able to understand what was important for each scene. When you are looking for a location for a specific scene you are walking and walking and you find a place and he starts talking about the blocking of the scene and a lot of the times he’s talking about what he doesn’t like.” (O’Falt, 2015)
This indicates that Lubezki plays a significant role in determining the overall look of a shot, and this combined with the cinematography techniques he applies to The Revenant shows he takes on a significant role in affecting mood, emotion and place in a shoot. He admits that the openness of the challenge is what drives him in his role:
“There are no rules or regulations or something from a book, you have to be finding it and trusting your instincts and the instincts of the director, that’s what I like.” (O’Falt, 2015).
Cinematographer Cybel Martin explained some of these roles and ideas that make an effective cinematographer/director partnership, including visual references (“My director must have a clear idea of how the film should feel and look. It need not be finalized but they should have some tangible means of explaining their vision”) and technical flexibility (“It’s enjoyable when a Director approaches with the project’s desired mood and trusts me to get us there technically.”) (Martin, 2014)
It is essentially an understanding of the roles and responsibilities between both cinematographer and director that helps create some of the sights we see in both Gravity and The Revenant. Lubezki’s friendship with Cuaron and Inarritu helps produce something of a healthy and unique working relationship, but in most cases the director would take account for what happens on screen, while the cinematographer is responsible for that looks.
Holben, J. (2016.) Behind the Lens: Dispatches from the Cinematographic Trenches. Accessed 18th August, 2016. http://www.indiewire.com/2015/12/the-great-collaborator-revenant-cinematographer-emmanuel-lubezki-on-working-with-inarritu-cuaron-and-malick-40996/
Martin, C. (2014.) S&A 2013 Highlights: 5 Things Cinematographers Look For In A Director & Project Before Taking A Job. Accessed 17th August 2016. http://www.indiewire.com/2014/01/sa-2013-highlights-5-things-cinematographers-look-for-in-a-director-project-before-taking-a-job-162734/
O’Falt, C. (2015.) The Great Collaborator: ‘Revenant’ Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki on Working with Iñárritu, Cuarón and Malick. Accessed 18th August 2016. http://www.indiewire.com/2015/12/the-great-collaborator-revenant-cinematographer-emmanuel-lubezki-on-working-with-inarritu-cuaron-and-malick-40996/