Courtly capers

Robbie Ryan BSC ISC / The Favourite

All smiles - Robbie Ryan BSC ISC on the set of <em>The Favourite</em>

Courtly capers

Robbie Ryan BSC ISC / The Favourite

WANT TO READ IT ALL?

Below is only a teaser, and the full interview can be found in the January 2019 issue (91) of British Cinematographer magazine.

If you purchase a year’s digital subscription from just £30, or a year’s all-inclusive subscription from just £64, you can read the interview in Issue 91 by clicking HERE. You will also receive access to the rest of our extensive back catalogue.

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Using Kodak 35mm film, cinematographer Robbie Ryan BSC ISC visualised a bawdy, biting tale of royal intrigue, passion, envy and betrayal for Yorgos Lanthimos’ critically-acclaimed feature The Favourite.

Picture this: England, early 18th century. While the country is at war with France, duck-racing and pineapple eating are thriving in the court of the frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). The regent’s confidante, adviser and clandestine lover Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), governs the country by proxy, while tending to Anne’s poor health and capricious temper. But when the Duchess’s younger cousin, Abigail (Emma Stone), arrives, and the politics of war become time-consuming for Sarah, Abigail steps into the breach as the Queen’s close companion. Their blossoming friendship gives Abigail the opportunity to fulfill her aristocratic ambitions. No woman, man, politics, ducks or rabbits will stand in her way as the balance of power and affections shifts between the women who jockey to become the Queen’ favourite.

The Favourite had its world premiere at the 75th Venice International Film Festival on 30 August 2018, where it won the Grand Jury Prize and the Volpi Cup for Best Actress for Colman's performance. It has since garnered a host of nominations during the 2019 awards season in Hollywood and at home. The $15m feature was produced by Element Pictures, Scarlet Films, Waypoint Entertainment and Film4, with distribution by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Robbie Ryan BSC ISC on the set of <em>The Favourite</em>

Along with its winsomely comedic lead performances, a witty and often foul-mouthed script by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, plus sumptuous costume design by Sandy Powell, the madcap period romp has also been widely admired, and tipped for Awards season success, for Ryan’s use of wide-angled perspectives and fluid camera style that transport the audience into an intriguing love triangle at the heart of royal affairs.

“I have been really lucky to have shot a lot of films on film over the last 10 years, and am very happy to shoot on film when I get the option,” says Ryan, whose previous celluloid credits include Andrea Arnold’s Red Road (2006), Fish Tank (2009), Wuthering Heights (2011) and American Honey (2016), Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (2017), and a clutch of features for Ken Loach, including The Angels' Share (2012), Jimmy's Hall (2014), I, Daniel Blake (2016) and the up-and-coming Sorry We Missed You (releasing 2019), captured variously on 35mm/16mm film. “I was delighted to learn that Yorgos wanted to shoot The Favourite on 35mm film, although the big thing for me was getting inside his vision for the production.”

"I believe one film critic said The Favourite felt like a playground that turns into a battleground that becomes a prison. That’s a very good explanation of what the film tries to get across with these characters, and the wide lenses were pretty integral to that experience."

- Robbie Ryan BSC ISC

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Photo by Atsushi Nishijima
Photo by Atsushi Nishijima

Principal photography began in March 2017 in the gardens and interiors of Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, concluding 45 shooting days later in May 2017. Lanthimos is a self-confessed celluloid stalwart, who shoots whenever possible in available light, and who is noted for the singular vision he brings to each of his features such as Dogtooth (2009) and The Killing Of A Sacred Deer (2017), both of which were 35mm-originated. He stated that a major reason for filming at Hatfield House was because, “From the beginning, I had this image of these lonely characters in huge spaces."

Speaking about his early conversations with Lanthimos regarding the visual language for The Favourite, Ryan recalls: “Shooting on film, wide lenses, natural light and fluid camera movement, were all of great importance to Yorgos on this production. He has a unique vision for every film he makes, and hates the idea of conventional film coverage. For him, The Favourite was not so much a costume drama, it was rather more an enthralling character-driven story that he wanted to explore in his own particular visual way.”

READ IT ALL

The full interview can be found in the January 2019 issue (91) of British Cinematographer magazine.

If you purchase a year’s digital subscription from just £30, or a year’s all-inclusive subscription from just £64, you can read the interview in Issue 91 by clicking HERE. You will also receive access to the rest of our extensive back catalogue.

CLICK TO BUY A DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTION
CLICK TO BUY A PRINT & DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTION