Sony Pixel Power calrec Sony

Seeing in the Dark


Set in 1950s France, The Deep Dark (Gueules noires) follows a group of coal miners who are commissioned to escort a professor through dangerous depths to retrieve measurements. After becoming trapped by a series of landslides, the unwitting crew soon discovers the terrifying reason why no one's traversed these caves in a hundred years.

Written and directed by Mathieu Turi, The Deep Dark bears a neo-noir quality skillfully crafted by cinematographer Alain Duplantier, who shot the feature with Primo 70 optics. Here, the cinematographer shines a light on how he and his collaborators captured a story that takes place almost entirely in the dark.

Panavision: How did you become involved in The Deep Dark?

Alain Duplantier: I had already collaborated with Mathieu Turi for his film Meander. Preparation is an important creative stage for Mathieu. He nourishes and enriches his film very early on. He questions the narrative, the strength of the characters, the atmospheres, etc. And of course all these questions inevitably invite a questioning of the image. It is therefore a collaboration which opens quite unusual and particularly interesting fields. Mathieu and I thrive on this approach. The staging draws on the photography, and the photography builds on the narrative and emotional issues of the film. Also, my very expressionistic personal photographic work provided a photographic intention that Mathieu really liked.

How would you describe the look of the project?

Duplantier: The Deep Dark takes place over two periods. Mathieu and I wanted each of these periods to be clearly identifiable.

The first was in 1850. The working conditions for miners then were terrible humidity, dust, darkness, long working days punctuated by explosions, landslides and floods. We wanted to recreate the harshness of these conditions and get as close as possible to what these miners really experienced. The multiple illustrations that we consulted, the testimonials, the site visits, etc. gradually guided our choices. Using the kerosene lamps of the time for our lighting quickly became obvious, but this strong choice did not allow us to convey the full depth of what we had before our eyes. We had to find a way to restore the detail of a completely black universe inhabited by men covered in black. We wet the walls, brought shine, made the skins shine, greased the clothes, and finally used smoke to find depth. We are all very proud of this part, as much for the visual result as for the collective commitment of everyone.

The second part takes place in 1950. The work of the miners is quite similar to that of 1850, but electricity brings a radical change. The coal galleries are then lit by lamps placed on the ceiling every 5 meters, and the miners use headlamps integrated into the helmets and powered by batteries placed in remote boxes, attached to the belt. I suggested to Mathieu that we could use these headlamps as main sources. This was the opportunity to establish a natural and obvious evolution while preserving, once again, the reality of this second period. It was also important that we fully adhered to this choice and understood the issues, because Mathieu's staging would have to integrate the fact that the actors themselves were going to be the carriers of our light sources.

Now we had to find the ideal lamp. With Franck Barrault, my gaffer, we chose caving lamps equipped with two LEDs, one with a wide flood beam and the other a concentrated spot beam. It was necessary to be able to control them remotely to be able to maintain control of the density and mixing of the two beams. Franck collaborated with the company Art Tech Design to equip these lamps with drivers compatible with LED diodes and to design the boxes that the actors would wear on their belts which contained the batteries, the driver and the CRMX device, allowing Franck to manage the lights live' for each actor. The concept worked very well and the actors played the game admirably, being aware of their additional responsibility. The visual effect produced by the headlamps in the coal mine mixed with the ambient lights works wonderfully.

Much of the action in this second period also takes place in a limestone mine with white rock walls. The mere effect of the headlamps is striking in both realism and mystery. The choreography' of the light beams in the darkness, the cast shadows running on the walls almost on its own construct the oppressive atmosphere of this moment in the film. The intensity of the actors could then be fully expressed. Thus, the anxiety, claustrophobia and fear that we experience in the film found their source as much in the action, the interpretation, as the atmosphere that we had imagined.

What brought you to Panavision for this project, and what attracted you to the specific lenses you chose, the Primo 70s?

Duplantier: I have collaborated with Panavision on numerous occasions, and each time I've been able to count on the wise expertise of the technical staff. Of course they know their cameras and their lenses, but above all they understand the emotional issues of the image and how one lens more than another is able to respond to them.

For The Deep Dark, we had to find optics capable of handling extreme highlights without generating flare, or flaring in a very measured way. We tested several series of optics, and quite quickly the Primo 70s satisfied us completely. They remained efficient in all the extreme situations we faced. Very few flares, beautiful substance in the skins, depths in the blacks, very beautiful bokeh, and little chromatic aberration or distortion.

What originally inspired you to become a cinematographer?

Duplantier: I have always liked to bring to life my perspective on things, people, situations. I started with film photography, and the play of distance and proximity has always fascin
See more stories from panavision

More from Panavision France


LEE Filters expands LEE Direct e-commerce platform to Canada

TORONTO (February 27, 2024) LEE Filters, a leading manufacturer of high-quality lighting gels and photographic filters and a member of the Panavision family o...


The Making of The New Boy

ACS member Warwick Thornton wrote, directed and photographed the feature The New Boy, about a 9-year-old Aboriginal Australian orphan who arrives at a remote mo...


Light Iron Colors Penelope in the Cloud

MovieLabs, the technology joint venture of the major Hollywood motion picture studios, recently announced that Light Iron is among the latest group of 10 partic...


Look, Flow & Legacy

Directed and co-written by Nicholaus Goossen, Drugstore June follows the vigilante detective-work of a self-obsessed social-media influencer, the eponymous June...


The Panavision Group at BSC Expo 2024

BSC Expo 2024 recently wrapped in London, and Panavision, Panalux and LEE Filters were all on hand to showcase products from across their range of innovative so...


Vital History

With its fourth season, the National Geographic series Genius presents a dual portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, inspirational leaders who paved ...


The Making of Saltburn

I always want the film to tell me what it needs, says cinematographer Linus Sandgren, FSF, ASC. In the case of writer-director Emerald Fennell's feature Sa...


Worthy Company

Cinematographer Ricardo Diaz joined the HBO series Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty for Season 2's third episode, The Second Coming. Depicting...


The Making of Killers of the Flower Moon and Barbie

2023 saw the release of two features photographed by Rodrigo Prieto, ASC, AMC: Barbie, directed by Greta Gerwig, and Killers of the Flower Moon, which reteamed ...


Panalux welcomes Sandro Leone as Long Form Sales Director

LONDON, England (31 January, 2024) Panalux, a leading rental provider of lighting and power solutions for the motion-picture industry and part of Panavision&#...


Family of Fighters

Written and directed by Sean Durkin, the feature film The Iron Claw shines a light on the tragedies and triumphs of the Von Erichs, a real-life family of profes...


Panalux announces new London headquarters

LONDON, England (23rd January, 2024) Panalux, a leading rental provider of lighting and power solutions for the motion-picture industry and part of Panavision...


The Making of The Crown

Over six seasons, the Netflix series The Crown has enthralled viewers with its simultaneously intimate and epic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and the royal fam...


Celebrating the Creative Spirit

Since its opening in 1973, the Sydney Opera House has become a globally recognized symbol of Australia and the creative spirit. In honor of the renowned institu...


Texture of Emotion

Based on Priscilla Presley's 1985 memoir Elvis and Me, the feature Priscilla reunited writer-director Sofia Coppola with cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd, ...


The Making of The Florida Project

Director Sean Baker's 2017 feature The Florida Project examines the world just outside the gates of the most magical place on Earth from the perspective o...


Perfect Pairs

Based on the true story of two best friends, Jane (Yara Shahidi) and Corinne (Odessa A'zion), Sitting in Bars With Cake depicts a harrowing journey of matur...


Seeing in the Dark

Set in 1950s France, The Deep Dark (Gueules noires) follows a group of coal miners who are commissioned to escort a professor through dangerous depths to retrie...


Wistful Thinking

Writer-director Le Chau was born in Vietnam, moved to the United States when she was 22, and graduated from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in 2...


A Collaboration With Panavision: Autumn Durald Arkapaw, ASC

Like the spoken word, visual language is a gift passed down from previous generations and capable of robust growth through shared use and collaboration. For cin...


Unmistakable Charm

The story of a shy photographer who breaks out of his shell after attending a succession of drag shows, Three Nights a Week offers an honest look behind the vei...


A Collaboration with Panavision: Alexis Zab, ASC, AMC

An expert in the exacting craft of commercial cinematography, Alexis Zab , ASC, AMC is equally adept at lending visuals of distinct humanity to long-form projec...


Sam Daley Nominated for HPA Award

The Hollywood Professional Association has announced the nominations for the 2023 HPA Awards, which will be presented on November 9. Light Iron senior colorist ...


To Be Believed

Director Charl ne Favier's feature La fille quon appelle focuses on Laura Le Corre (Alba Ga a Bellugi), a young woman placed in a vulnerable position after ...


In Focus: Panavision Manufacturing

This video takes viewers inside the manufacturing department at Panavision's headquarters in Woodland Hills, California. Follow along from blueprint to CNC ...


A Collaboration With Panavision: John Seale, AM, ACS, ASC

Before going on to serve as cinematographer on such varied and beloved features as Witness, Rain Man, Dead Poet's Society, The English Patient, The Perfect ...


Launchpad Season 2 Takes Flight

Now streaming on Disney+, Launchpad Season 2 comprises six original live-action short films from underrepresented filmmakers whose unique voices bring new persp...


A Collaboration With Panavision: David Procter, BSC

It's one of the most powerful mediums of art, I believe, that we have, David Procter, BSC says of motion pictures. Having gotten his start in documentaries...


LEE Filters launches LEE100 Deluxe Kit+

ANDOVER, England (19th September, 2023) LEE Filters, a leading manufacturer of high-quality lighting gels and photographic filters and a member of the Panavis...


Tall Tale

Boots Riley writer, director and acclaimed vocalist of the hip-hop group The Coup is the definition of a colorful and exacting thinker. Some five years afte...


Creative Exercise

Created by Annie Weisman, the 1980s-set Apple TV+ series Physical focuses on Sheila Rubin (Rose Byrne) as she navigates a path toward self-discovery after unloc...


A Collaboration With Panavision: Ben Davis, BSC

My first day on set, I thought, This is what I want to do,' reflects Ben Davis, BSC, whose credits range from dramas like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing,...


Kim Snyder Receives HPA Alchemist Honor

The Hollywood Professional Association recently announced the latest recipients of its League Honors. This year's honorees include Panavision President and ...


Winning Depth

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty is back for its second season on HBO, pushing deeper into the 1980s as it continues to recount the on- and off-cour...


Political Colors

Created by Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck and directed by David Mandel, the five-part miniseries White House Plumbers shines a fresh light on the real-life comedy...


A Collaboration With Panavision: Stephen H. Burum, ASC

I was a kid who liked to play, and cinematography is like playing, shares Stephen H. Burum, ASC, the recipient of the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award from the C...


The Thrill of the Ride

The new feature Haunted Mansion delivers spooky fun inspired by the famed Disney theme park attraction. Telling the story of single-mom Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) ...


Surreal Sympathies

Director Yuval Adler's Sympathy for the Devil is a road movie designed to subvert expectations. The story depicts one extremely long night for one sorely un...


A Collaboration with Panalux: Ben Smithard, BSC

Ben Smithard, BSC's credits include the features The Father and The Son, both with director Florian Zeller. In this video, the cinematographer retraces his ...


A Collaboration with Panavision: Piotr liskowski, PSC

Since childhood, I had a photo camera, reflects acclaimed Polish cinematographer Piotr liskowski, PSC. In this exclusive video, he recalls preparing for entra...


Personal Mission

In writer-director Leo Milano's debut feature, The Crusades, three friends find their school year thrown into turmoil by the possibility that their all-boys...


Coming in Hot

Eva Longorias feature directorial debut, Flamin' Hot, tells the story of how America fell in love with the Flamin Hot Cheeto. Longorias inspired direction c...


Legends in Living Color

The story of the friendship between Aristotle Mendoza and Dante Quintana has captured the hearts of teenaged readers and the adults who care for them since Benj...


A Realm of Great Escape

Cinematographer Camilo Monsalve, ADFC understands the language of cinema as well as he knows his hometown of Medell n, Colombia. When presented with the opportu...


A Collaboration With Panalux: Harry Wiggins

I suppose you've got two sides to your lighting, says chief lighting technician Harry Wiggins. One is what you're going to rig, and the second thing i...


LEE Filters introduces LEE Compact 2-foot lighting gel and diffusion rolls

LONDON, England (13th June, 2023) LEE Filters, a leading manufacturer of high-quality lighting gels and photographic filters and a member of the Panavision fa...


A Collaboration With Panavision: scar Faura, AEC

My first idea was not to be a cinematographer, says director of photography scar Faura, AEC. I wanted to be an editor. In this exclusive video, Faura discus...


Isolated Incident

Written and directed by Miles Warren, the feature Bruiser takes an unflinching look at the role that hand-to-hand combat plays in a boys maturation into manhood...


The Making of The Silent Twins

The Silent Twins tells the story of identical twins June and Jennifer Gibbons, who grow up only communicating with each other. The movie which was serviced by...


Hyper-Natural Force

The BBC drama series Blue Lights tells the story of three rookie cops on the police force in Northern Ireland's capital, Belfast. Directed by Gilles Bannier...