BLEAK BEAUTY: Linus Sandgren was perfectly aligned with writer-director Emerald Fennell’s visual ambitions when lensing a twisted tale that is shocking yet beautiful.
Linus Sandgren talks to British Cinematographer’s Zoe Mutter about lensing Emerald Fennell’s POOR THINGS.
Following writer-director Emerald Fennell’s 2020 bold debut feature and breakout success Promising Young Woman (Cin: Benjamin Kračun BSC), for which she won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, the filmmaker’s next production was certain to be equally as daring and distinctive. Packing a punch through its storytelling and visuals and full of twists and turns, Saltburn ventures into new narrative territory spanning class privilege, seduction, and aspiration.
In the tale of excess and obsession we meet student Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) who is struggling to fit in at Oxford University before he meets alluring classmate Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi). As Oliver’s infatuation for his new friend grows, Felix welcomes him into the fold of his eccentric aristocratic family for a summer of decadence and debauchery at their sprawling Saltburn estate.
Linus Sandgren ASC FSF was approached with the script for Saltburn by Margot Robbie who starred in 2022’s Babylon which the DP lensed. She was co-producing Saltburn through LuckyChap Entertainment, the production company she founded with her husband producer, Tom Ackerley, Josey McNamara, and Sophia Kerr. Having been wowed by Promising Young Woman (also produced by LuckyChap), specifically the script, Sandgren was excited to discover Fennell wanted to talk to him about her upcoming project. “I was impressed by how brave she had been in the making of Promising Young Woman – she made bold choices like how long she let a killing go on in a single shot,” he says. “She’s so confident in how she tells the story.”
Sandgren’s first meeting with Fennell further clarified “what an intelligent and visionary director she is.” The initial discussion with a director is one of the most crucial parts of Sandgren’s process, often equally as important as an outstanding script. “How the director presents the project gives you a sense of how much they care about the story and helps you connect with their vision,” he says. “Emerald is a very inviting person who loves collaboration. She’d already done so much homework and everything was visually explained in the script. There’s a strong reason behind why she wrote the story that’s clear all the way through working with her.”
Fennell’s ambition for a smaller, more intimate shoot, and capturing Saltburn on film was also a great draw for the cinematographer: “I love working with Margot too – she’s a really smart producer who picks her projects carefully and LuckyChap have a great focus on equality when they hire people.”
The director and DP’s shared passion for celluloid created a visual cohesion from the start. Sandgren – a long-time advocate for shooting on film – finds colours are richer and the texture and grain help convey emotion. “You don’t need to add contrast because it’s inherent in the negative, and it especially suited this film’s subtle colours and cooler tones for scenes taking place outside,” he says. “Saltburn is almost an impression of reality, but it isn’t reality, so it helps to shoot on film, because digital can feel more real, so you’d need to work against that with lighting, filtering, or adding grain in post.
“I love the process of shooting on film as you think you know how it’s going to look and when it comes back something has been added you couldn’t predict, and it’s even better than expected. Somehow even a grey day when captured on film will be beautiful and with richer colours. On this occasion we had much less fill than I normally would, it was more contrasty.”
Shot on 4-perf 35mm film, Saltburn was developed and scanned 4K by Cinelab Film and Digital. Most of the film was shot on Kodak Vision3 500T/5219 for night exteriors and day interiors because it aligned with Sandgren’s desire to often light from outside and not use much light. Kodak Vision3 250D/5207 was also used for some day interiors and Vision3 50D for sunbathing shots as it is colour balanced for sunny days and brightly lit scenes.
Read the full article here: https://britishcinematographer.co.uk/linus-sandgren-asc-fsf-saltburn/