An Interview with Martin Ruhe
Martin Ruhe is an acclaimed cinematographer known for his work on Harry Brown, Catch-22, American Pastoral and The Countess, as well as his collaborations with Anton Corbjin on Control and The American. He also worked as cinematographer on the upcoming Good Morning, Midnight, due to be released later this year. In addition to this, Martin has worked on commercials and shot music videos for Depeche Mode and Coldplay. I spoke with Martin about his experience working on Control, the challenges of shooting The American, and his preferred camera/kit.
Did you always think you would go into cinematography? What was your first experience in this line?
No. I come from a small town in the middle of West Germany. My family had nothing to do with film and was not encouraging this at all. I went to London and tried to work as a runner with the big plan to become a director one day. I got a job at a camera rental (Sammy’s) and went on weekends off to visit film sets whenever I could. Only then I realised what a cinematographer does and knew that’s what I wanted to do.
Are there any particular films, or cinematographers who have really inspired your work?
Mike Southon was somebody who invited me to set at the time and gave me some insight. When I started watching films for their cinematography, Robby Müller, Deakins always, Storraro and his work with Bertolucci, Gordon Willis and Michael Ballhaus… Today I like a lot the work of Bradford Young, Natasha Braier, Greig Fraser, Chivo Lubezki and a lot more.
You worked as cinematographer on Control. Can you tell me more about this experience, and how the opportunity came about?
A German singer Herbert Grönemeyer who I had shot music videos with is a good friend of Anton Corbijn. He introduced us and we started working together on music videos. I shot almost everything for Anton for six or seven years. When he asked me to do Control I said yes immediately. I did not realise how important Joy Division still is to so many people until I did the film.
It was my first film in England and we shot mainly in Nottingham and Macclesfield. I worked with an entirely new crew, apart from Anton I didn’t know anybody. We were so focused on the filming that it still is one of the best experiences of my work life.
You worked with Anton Corbijn again on The American. What were the biggest challenges you faced shooting this film?
One of the biggest challenges was shooting in the Abruzzo mountains in Italy. We started in September in full hot summer and ended in November when some regions were totally snow covered already. Days got much shorter, the sun was much lower towards the end and the weather was constantly changing.
Another one was the incredibly small houses and rooms we shot in the village where the main character is hiding away.
Another challenge was that when we were in the cities like Rome and Sulmona, we always had a crowd of at least 800 people chasing us because everybody wanted to see George.
Which camera did you use to shoot the film, and do you have a preferred camera/kit?
We shot that film with Arricam and Arricam Lite cameras. I used a lot of Cooke S4 lenses over the years, love the Panavision C-Series anamorphics or the Kowas. The last movie I shot on Alexa 65 with DNA lenses. It is hard to settle on one camera or kit because since the upcoming of digital and all the different formats I feel everything changes quite quickly. I tend to stick with Arri cameras - that is the main thing I always [use]…
You’re collaborating with George Clooney again on the upcoming Good Morning, Midnight. Can you tell me more about this?
No. unfortunately not since I signed an NDA for the project. By what you already can find in the media I think it is safe to say this is very different from any of the movies George has ever directed.