Thursday, February 10, 2011

Anthony Dod Mantle – Movies Spotlight – February 2011

Anthony Dod Mantle is known for being at the forefront of digital photography in cinema, primarily working with directors Danny Boyle and Lars von Trier. This month his cinematography is featured in Kevin Macdonald’s new film The Eagle, about a Roman solider who crosses Hadrian’s Wall to retrieve his legion’s Standard, which was lost by his father.

Early Career:

Dod Mantle was born in the UK, but moved to Denmark in 1979 where he qualified as a photographer taking up permanent residence. In 1985, he enrolls at the National Film school. Five years later he is hired by Lone Scherfig (who made 2009’s An Education) to shoot his first film (Kaj’s fodselsdag) and then by German director Philip Groning to shoot Die Terroristen! The film is banned in Germany and thus achieves some cult status. He continues to work in the German and Danish film industries shooting both features and documentaries for around ten years. Then he met Danny Boyle, who had the idea to shoot two TV films for BBC One digitally – Strumpet and Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise. The success of the medium leads to the pair working together on a new feature film, which would serve as Dod Mantle’s breakthrough work and Boyle’s career resurgence after the box office flop The Beach (though, I think it actually a fairly interesting film).

Digital Photography:

That film is 28 Days Later…, which is shot almost entirely digitally (the sequence near the end at night when the military HQ is attacked by infected is shot on film). Boyle wanted the film to look aesthetically like it is being shot by survivors of the outbreak, the grittiness and harshness of the digital medium (at the time) made for a logical choice. Dod Mantle uses a Canon XL 1 camera to shot the film. In 2002, it is one of the first feature films to open wide to be shot on a DV format, paving the way for many other Hollywood films to be shot digitally (like Michael Mann’s Collateral in 2004). Next he works on Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s first Hollywood film It’s All About Love (he also shot his 1998 film The Celebration). The film is not well received; however it does serve as Dod Mantle’s introduction to another Danish filmmaker and friend of Vinterberg – Lars von Trier, who hires Dod Mantle to shot his new film and follow-up to his own breakthrough Dancer in the DarkDogville. The film is very interesting aesthetically, von Trier presenting it like a scaled down play with chalk outlines serving as buildings. Yet, his directing, Dod Mantle’s photography and the performances make the audience forget that the whole thing is taking play on a black stage not in an actual run-down small town. Dod Mantle continues to forward and perfect his craft of digital photography working again with Vinterberg on Dear Wendy (written by von Trier) and von Trier on Manderlay (aesthetically similar to Dogville).


Dod Mantle also did a few films using film stock, working again with Boyle on Millions and shooting on both 16 and 35mm for Brothers of the Head, directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe. His work on the film is fantastic as he distorted his film stock greatly to make it appear as though it were an older stock, fitting the time period of the film. Scottish director Kevin Macdonald loved his work so much that he hired Dod Mantle to shoot his first feature film (coming from a documentary background) The Last King of Scotland, using both 16 and 35mm film stock again and corrupting it to look grainier to fit the time period. Dod Mantle’s work on the film is recognized by the British Independent Film Awards, winning Best Technical Achievement. He next works again with Scherfig (Just Like Home) and Vinterberg (When a Man Comes Home), before again working with Boyle on a new project in India – Slumdog Millionaire. After shooting his sci-fi film Sunshine on 35 and 65mm film stock, Boyle wanted to return to digital aesthetically fitting the slum world of his new film. Dod Mantle’s work on the film is outstanding and (if not before with other films) legitimizes digital photography by winning Best Cinematography at the 2009 Oscars. He also won a BAFTA award for Best Photography (TV Award) for his work on the series Wallander (he shot episodes 1 and 3). In 2009 he shoots Antichrist for von Trier, and his work is again praised. He uses the Red One Camera on the film and on Wallander. His latest film, 127 Hours, with Boyle takes advantage of HD digital, 35 mm stock and a Moviecam Compact MK2 garnering him another BAFTA nomination in 2011 for Best Cinematography.

Future Projects:

Dod Mantle has The Eagle coming out this month, and he is currently filming on a reimaging of the comic book hero Judge Dredd – called Dredd. The film is directed by Pete Travis and written by excellent screenwriter Alex Garland. It stars Karl Urban (as Dredd), Lena Headey and Olivia Thirlby.

Anthony Dod Mantle’s Selected Career Highlights:

1.)    28 Days Later… (2002)* – available on Blu-ray/DVD
2.)    Dogville (2003) – available on DVD
3.)    Millions (2004) – available on DVD
4.)    Manderlay (2005) – available on DVD
5.)    Brothers of the Head (2006) – available on DVD
6.)    The Last King of Scotland (2006) – available on Blu-ray/DVD
7.)    Slumdog Millionaire (2008)* – available on Blu-ray/DVD
8.)    Wallander (2008) – available on DVD
9.)    Antichrist (2009) – available on Blu-ray/DVD
10.) 127 Hours (2010)* – available on Blu-ray/DVD
*editor’s picks

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