Photography

The Revenant—A Feature Film Shot With Almost Entirely Natural Light

Leonardo DiCaprio plays the lead in cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s The Revenant—an upcoming western thriller based on the life of 18th century frontiersman and fur trapper Hugh Glass.

To immerse the audience in the action filmed in freezing conditions in Canada and Argentina, Lubezki filmed almost the entire movie with natural light from the sun, the moon and fires.

Still from The Revenant.

Lubezki told Variety,“We wanted to make a movie that was immersive and visceral. The idea of using natural light came because we wanted the audience to feel, I hope, that this stuff is really happening.”

The one exception was a scene for which Lubezki used several lightbulbs to create a cushion of light around a campfire, since wind was making its light erratic and distracting.

Still from The Revenant.

The cinematographer has previously worked on several films such as ‘Y Tu Mamá También’ with up to 90% natural lighting, though The Revenant is the first to feature practically no artificial lighting.

Still from The Revenant.

Lubezki also considered shooting The Revenant on film, until tests showed him the format didn’t have the sensitivity to capture shots at dawn and dusk. Instead, the Arri Alexa 54 digital camera was used, with lenses from 12mm to 21mm.

Still from The Revenant.

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who also directed Birdman, along with DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and their fellow cast are tipped for awards-season recognition, and it may be well deserved according to reports of the filming being a living hell.