Home » Film Festivals » ‘Living The Light – Robby Müller’ – The Late, Legendary Cinematographer Broke Waves [Transilvania]

‘Living The Light – Robby Müller’ – The Late, Legendary Cinematographer Broke Waves [Transilvania]

by Paul Heath

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across a superb documentary at the Cannes Film Festival that really changed how I watched movies. That film was called Making Waves: The Art Of Cinematic Sound; a superb historical doc. charting the aural journey of Hollywood from silent film to today. It covered everything in the sound mixing process and was an absolute marvel. This week, I found a perfect companion piece at TIFF 18 (the Transilvania International Film Festival), Living The Light: Robby Müller, a visual treat focussing on the life and career of one of the greatest cinematographers that ever was.

I love flicking through festival programs, picking out a movie that I know nothing about and then venturing off to a cinema to sit down to take it in. Festivals offer a very rare thing – films that play there largely arrive with little fanfare – spare the big ones – have no publicity campaign or much PR behind them, and usually offer just one sentence in terms of a synopsis, and a brief cast list and director. I very rarely pay much attention – I just roll up and embark on a journey of discovery, which is what I did today with Clare Pijman’s Living The Light – Robby Müller. I found an absolute gem.

This 90-minute documentary had me absorbed from the opening, beautiful frames, a simple snippet of old videotape – Hi8 (remember that?) – shot by Müller on what seemed to be a regular walk in the countryside. It is him shooting directly at the sun, his fingers stretched around in front flicking forward and back in front of the lens to temporarily block light. It is the perfect opening to an insight into a great man’s groundbreaking career that largely revolved around using natural light – or at least making it look natural – over what ended up being over 70 motion pictures.

Müller was one of the true cinematic greats, and Pijman’s film primarily focusses on his time with Wim Wenders, a filmmaker, and friend who he would shoot many movies with, including one of the best movies ever committed to film, Paris, Texas. ‘Living The Light’ also details Müller’s collaborations with Jim Jarmusch, Barbet Schroeder, and Lars Von Trier, and features footage from many of the projects they made together, but that’s not the main quality of this fascinating work – it is the small home movies that Pijman seems to have unrestricted access to – snippets of video of the man, filming freely, almost constantly, walking his dog, or lounging in a hotel room, or hiking through the countryside, quietly honing his art and capturing life at the same time.

He was a man clearly ahead of his time, a pioneer in the game who largely shot on film throughout his career, but certainly seemed to warm to video and later digital technologies, freeing up the camera and virtually eliminating the long processes require to light for film. This movie details him and his craft beautifully.

‘Living The Light’ was unexpected and one of those rare finds at a festival that I really hope finds good distribution to take it to the masses. Like ‘Making Waves’, it changes the way you’ll watch movies in the future. A fascinating insight into the processes involved with filmmaking featuring one of the true greats, one that sadly is no longer with us. Thankfully, documentaries like this exist, and the dozens of quality features he contributed to over the years make them live on. See this film. Really absorbing, captivating stuff. I loved it.

Here’s the trailer.

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