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Robby Müller: Let’s Make Light

Underlying the most transcendent images ever captured onscreen – the desolate splendor of Wim Wenders’ road […] Read more

Underlying the most transcendent images ever captured onscreen – the desolate splendor of Wim Wenders’ road movies, or the raw aesthetic of Jim Jarmusch’s deadpan comedies – are the work of Robby Müller (1940-2018), the Dutch cinematographer who helped shape the filmmakers’ visions. “He’s like a Dutch interior painter, like Vermeer or de Hooch, who was born in the wrong century,” observed Jarmusch. With an instinctive acumen for natural light, Müller maintained a philosophy of simplicity – “the magic of the film image depends upon the viewer believing in the reality of the light.” His ingenuity was more than creating a cinematic authenticity, but grounding his shots with deep humanity. His camera was a window to the soul. His inventive use of light, his intuitive sense of framing, and the lyricism of his camera movements created an enduring visual language that helped filmmakers establish their signatures. From The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty (1972), Wenders embarked his cinematic journey with Müller, delivering features that filtered the mythology of American culture through a prism of European alienation, exemplified in the Cannes Palme d’Or winner Paris, Texas (1984). Be it the eerie blues in Mystery Train (1989), or the highcontrast monochrome in Dead Man (1995), Müller’s entrancingly poetic imagery is a perfect complement to Jarmusch’s idiosyncratic style. He never lost his appetite for innovation – transcending the suburban scenery into a woman’s landscape of isolation in Peter Handke’s The Left-handed Woman (1978); transforming sleazy bars into iridescent catacombs for Barbet Schroeder’s Barfly (1987); and employing handheld cameras to stunning effect in Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (1996) and another Palme d’Or winner Dancer in the Dark (2000). A man who changed the face of cinematography, Müller will continue to shine a light in the darkness of cinema.

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