horror Movies

‘A film like ‘The Nun’ requires inverting the lighting process,’ says DoP Maxime Alexandre

(L-R) TAISSA FARMIGA, DEMIAN BICHIR and Director of Photography MAXIME ALEXANDRE on the set of New Line Cinema’s horror film “THE NUN,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.   | Photo Credit: Martin Maguire

As Sister Irene, played by Taissa Farmiga, slowly walks down the abyss-like corridor of the ancient Santa Cârța Monastery, the play of light and dark across her pale face shimmers eerily with the weak lantern she holds as a companion. Behind the scenes of The Nun, one of the masterminds behind this tension evoked through the lens is Director of Photography Maxime Alexandre, who’s long been a part of The Conjuring team.

With this adept and intuitive eye and name, it’s no wonder that Maxime’s ever-growing ambition is to constantly create cinematography that englobes all the artistic aspects of every project he works on. Said aspects include location, costume and production design while working with the director’s vision in terms of a colour approach.

(L-R) Director of Photography MAXIME ALEXANDRE and Director CORIN HARDY on the set of New Line Cinema’s horror film “THE NUN,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

(L-R) Director of Photography MAXIME ALEXANDRE and Director CORIN HARDY on the set of New Line Cinema’s horror film “THE NUN,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.   | Photo Credit: Cos Aelenei

This is the Belgian cinematographer’s third project with production designer Jennifer Spencer and his first with director Corin Hardy, and he owes a lot of it to producer Peter Safran who brought the The Conjuring universe to life. “Working with Corin has been an intense experience, his gothic intentions around Sister Irene and Father Burke’s (Demián Bichir) journey towards The Abbey of Santa Cârța was extremely intricate but Corin’s energy and passions guided all of us towards something unusual and beautiful almost nostalgic of a cinematography we now see rarely… With such a character when you work hard to reach perfection, and when it comes to shooting it is just a pleasure as everytime Bonnie Aarons would step in front of the frame everything around her would totally disappear.”

In regards to his workflow, Maxime starts with a lighting concept, which is simply a vision board which he would share with Corin. “When the style of the movie had been set, I’d just do my best to harmonise all the rest of the elements during our shooting,” he says.

The draw of Valak

And what of the demon Valak itself? Bonnie’s already theatrical appearance was made up by makeup artist Eleanor Sabaduquia and her team and costume designer Sharon Gilham to the point where chills went down audiences’ spines the world over. Maxime is grateful and comments, “The look of Bonnie Aarons was one of, if not the most, important key of our movie so it needed close teamwork to find a proper colour skin tone and with Eleanor and her team everything seemed to be just an easy achievement.”

That being said, Maxime says, the framing style adapts to each film. Maxime quips, “As I like to to say often, you want the first audience’s comment to be, ‘what a beautiful movie’, then ‘and what a beautiful cinematography’ not the inverse, right?” He continues that he didn’t change his way of work with the “The Conjuring family” as he and team like to call it. “I simply applied my experience and sincere passion around the visions of David Sandberg for Annabelle: Creation and Corin Hardy for The Nun; with each of them, there was a difference in cinematography style, but simply related to the The Conjuring by the script itself and a difference in the style in terms of the tension which is indeed unique in The Conjuring.”

(L-R) DEMIAN BICHIR and Director of Photography MAXIME ALEXANDRE on the set of New Line Cinema’s horror film “THE NUN,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

(L-R) DEMIAN BICHIR and Director of Photography MAXIME ALEXANDRE on the set of New Line Cinema’s horror film “THE NUN,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.  

Maxime strongly believes that the cinema industry speaks a common language diversified, maybe, by different accents — but still pretty much the same. Having grown up in different parts of Europe, he adds, “It is about your own culture and the way you use it that makes the difference. I’ve shot movies almost all around the world, including in India where I had an unforgettable experience with my crews. Romania gave us a colour palette totally different from any other Conjuring movies and the style Corin Hardy ask me to work on enhanced all the characters in the best way for the story itself.”

That being said, light and dark are a powerful antithesis in the film that takes place in 1950s war-torn Romania, Maxime once again places emphasis on Valak. “We gave a name to an entity that materialises its true self: the demonic nun known as Valak. The rule of lights and framing was to feel the power of this entity, so all the choreography of the lights and shadows was based on this. When you light a movie like The Nun, you start by inverting the process, you’re not lighting a scene, but you begin with the dark itself and you light only the elements you need. Then you give a depth to the ambience and that depth will give life to Valak.”

So when you’re watching The Nun, amid the delightful jump-scares, do take note of the sinister exchanges of colour, light and dark.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 1:38:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/the-nun-2018-cinematographer-maxime-alexandre/article24994106.ece

Next Story