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‘The Green Knight’: David Lowery and Andrew Droz Palmero Collaborated on Year’s Best Cinematography

Filmmaker Toolkit: Watch how the director and cinematographer used color, composition, and the Irish landscape to create their hero's journey.

"The Green Knight"
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Ireland’s green misty landscape is inherently atmospheric, but the gray skies and earth tones were simply the base underneath director David Lowery’s unexpected journey into the realm of King Authur’s roundtable. It was how Lowery and cinematographer Andrew Droz Palmero transformed those landscapes into a hero’s journey told in bold color and expressive compositions that made it the most effective use of cinematography of 2021.

“We were always looking for these ways to find places to add colors so that it wasn’t just at the end, it gets really feverish,” explained Palermo when he and Lowery were on IndieWire’s Filmmaker Toolkit podcast. In the video above, the two collaborators break down how they turned the film’s sole evening exterior into a blue-tinged world inspired by the Hammer British horror films, while the cinematographers biggest obstacle was the unexpectedly sunny and clear skies.

The hero’s arc of Gawain (Dev Patel) — much like that of a hero of Hollywood’s old West — was told through a careful use of landscape. Although production was limited to a rather small geographic distance, the director and cinematographer scouted until they found the perfect mix of geography to mirror the fantastical ebbs and flows of Gawain’s mission to find the Green Knight.

“We were thinking about the trajectory Dev goes on, a sense of adventure,” said Lowery. “The horizons are open and clear, and then it gradually gets more oppressive and the landscape gets more treacherous, more dangerous, more bleak, and more fantastical. We wanted to bring in a sense of magic as  progresses.”

As Lowery explains in the video above, it was an adventure he always envisioned being shot in large format — captured digitally with the Arri Alexa65 camera — but it was a choice driven by his love of the way it captured close-ups, not landscapes. Lowery joked that it was Palermo’s job to always “remind me to get wider, because I was always wanting to get close to things.”

To hear the full conversation, subscribe to the podcast below.

The Filmmaker Toolkit podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Stitcher. The music used in this podcast is from the “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present” score, courtesy of composer Nathan Halpern.

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