Sven Nykvist

by Henri Colomer, director

La Lettre AFC n°159

[English] [français]

Easily shifting reflectors were then prototypes and the great flags used to cut reflected light a wondrous thing, the knuckles of which we would rotate in all directions. This was after The Magic Flute and before Face to Face. His electricians loved him. He did not care much for gear heads, doing the framing himself with the handle whenever he could. Yet, at the same time, curiously, he did not hate zooming when it was integrated to the action (via the zooming command on the handle).

Sur le tournage du " Sacrifice " d’Andrei Tarkovsky
Sur le tournage du " Sacrifice " d’Andrei Tarkovsky
Andrei Tarkovsky, derrière la caméra sur praticable, et Sven Nykvist assis derrière la caméra à droite (photo Lars-Olof Löthwall/

He showed me sketches he had done with Bergman in the Winter Light Chapel while they were studying “for the first time” how to shoot natural lighting ; and we watched films by Stiller or Sjöström, shot in “fake studios” lit by the workshop light of painters - northern, overhead natural lighting.

To see him coping with Tarkovski’s directions without understanding Russian on The Sacrifice in the film’s making of would give you an idea of what a character he was.

To me, it was a brief but defining encounter : he was artistic honesty made man - a wonderful man, the likes of whom you see so seldom.

I am thinking of him ; I hope he did not suffer before parting. He left us with something unforgettable - especially, to me, when he lit and shot faces.

(Translated from French by Mathilde Bouhon)