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Australian cinematographer Danny Ruhlmann, ACS shot The Raven … in which John Cusack plays Edgar Allan Poe, whose fictional slayings are being copycatted by a serial killer in 19th century Baltimore – played by Budapest. Ruhlmann talks about making the film’s images. (Opens in the United States April 27, later in Australia).

The Relativity picture is directed by James McTeigue; costars Alice Eve, Luke Evans, Brendan Coyle, Brendan Gleeson and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.

During the four-week shoot, Ruhlmann filmed in and around Budapest, in Belgrade and Novi Sad, Serbia. “It’s great being in that part of the world,” says Ruhlmann, “although very cold at the time – our biggest challenge. Fortunately James and I were really well prepared. I don’t think things changed at all from our initial pre-production.

"one of the best decisions I made"

“I arrived in Hungary without any crew and worked with a great team made up mostly of locals. However, one of the best decisions I made came in the form of gaffer Albrecht Silberberger, from Berlin. James had worked with him before on V for Vendetta and Ninja Assassin. Albrecht brought a huge amount of his experience to the film. I was fortunate to have him there.”

Ruhlmann used the Arri ST, LT and 435 cameras with Arri Master Prime lenses to shoot the film; he is very comfortable with Arri’s cameras and lenses, having worked with them numerous times before. He chose Fuji 500T Eterna stocks for the same reason. “I love its richness and filmic texture,” he says. “We chose film over digital because, like Poe’s work, film has a timeless quality, which we wanted to capture.

"want the audience to feel there may be something lurking in the dark"

“The lighting plan is to keep it dark but see the eyes. We always want the audience to feel there may be something lurking in the dark. To do this we kept the light off the walls, lit most sets from above primarily - and created fill to highlight the actors’ eyes. In regards to framing, I use more negative space to increase the feeling there may be someone in the shadows.”

Ruhlmann is the cinematographer behind some of Australia’s notable features of the past few years, including Little Fish, The Night We Called it a Day, The Nugget and In a Savage Land. Little Fish earned him Australian Film Institute (AFI) and Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA) Best Cinematography nominations in 2005. 

Published April 19, 2012

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