Deakins went back to his beginnings in film, first of all as a student at the London National Film School in the early 70s, coming from the small town of Torquay in Southwest England.
Before starting to shoot feature films, Deakins recorded documentaries, so he shared his experience working with that genre.
-When shooting documentary films, one needs to exercise the eye to see what will happen next, opposed to the feature films, where you can do rehearsals and retake scenes a couple of times, Deakins says.
At the start of the talk, he mentioned his experience with a technique of desaturation (lowering down the intensity of the colors) on the film 1984 (a screen adaptation of the George Orwell novel), saying also that that is the film feature-length film that used that technique. Anyhow, no visual effects were used in the making of the film 1984, but all was made with a combination of various off-screen techniques.
-We played with some techniques which allowed us to showcase something that nowadays is only done by a push of a button, Deakins pointed out.
He said that one crucial role of the cinematographers in the film’s making is to give the actors the space to do their part.
He did his first American film with the director Bob Rafelson, the film Mountains of the Moon, a film in an ironic-comedy style, but he thinks that that film didn’t turn out that well.
-I think that I wasn’t the right person for the work on that film and with that director, Deakins stated self-critically, adding that the people that work on a film sometimes just don’t fit together.
The moderator Walters pointed out the film The Shawshank Redemption as one of his favorite films, and he asked Deakins why is it not amongst his own favorites.
-I imagined that the film’s story will be portrayed in a more brutal and realistic manner, but to me it was maybe a little toned down, Deakins thinks.
In terms of his experience on the Cohen Brothers’ film Fargo, Deakins remembers the idea of filming it in some sort of a documentary-like manner, being more observative of the characters.
-Fargo is a brilliant film, but it was quite a technical challenge for me. The Cohen Brothers knew exactly what they wanted and almost all recorded material was used up, Deakins said.
The fruitful collaboration with the Cohen Brothers continued with the films O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn’t There, No Country for Old Men…
-In O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a technique of digitalization with timing of the material was used for the first time, and it took a long and hard work. We wanted to achieve a look of a painted photography, Deakins explained.
He pointed out that The Man Who Wasn’t There is one of the best films he has worked on.
-The Cohen Brothers ingeniously put the film together, Deakins said, pointing out that the cinematographers and the actors understand each other very well on the film sets only with a look.
The war drama Jarhead, directed by Sam Mendes, is also part of Deakins’ favorite films.
-We were lucky that there were digital effects 12 years ago, so we could record scenes from the burning oil separately and combine them with the scenes where the characters actually were, Deakins explained.
The festival laureate pointed out that he likes films because of the characters.
-The character portrayed by Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049 seemed somehow empty to me, so I felt some pity for that character, Deakins said, also adding that the film Skyfall seemed to him somehow different from the rest of the James Bond serial, exactly because of the bigger focus on the characters.