“Call Me By Your Name” – A Feature Film Shot with Only One 35mm Lens

January 18th, 2018
"Call Me By Your Name" - A Feature Film Shot with Only One 35mm Lens

Call Me By Your Name is a 2017 feature film directed by Luca Guadagnino shot around the city of Crema in Italy. What makes the cinematography of this feature interesting is that it was completely shot using only one lens – the Cooke S4 35mm.

Call Me By Your Name, Source: imdb.com

Thai cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, who shoots only on film, was glad to work as DP with the director on this romantic drama, and he appreciated the light conditions available as he walked around the locations prior to the production of the movie. His Camera Setup for this feature film was ARRI Arricam LT 35mm with a single Cooke S4 35mm lens filming on a Kodak 500 vision 3 film. Shooting the whole film with only one lens contributed to the simplicity of its cinematography.

Initially, this idea did not come from the DP itself, but from director Luca Guadagnino. Mukdeeprom gladly accepted the challenge, as he wanted to focus on different aspects of the cinematography other than the choice of focal length for each scene. In his own words Mukdeeprom said: “The producer asked me, should there be some other, wider lens? Just in case? I said ‘No, no. I want to tie my hand to this approach, because this is how I work. I think if you limit yourself to something, you struggle inside your idea”. I agree with him – by limiting one aspect of the puzzle, one can concentrate more on other aspects and therefore become more creative.

Mukdeeprom’s initial enthusiasm about the one-lens idea got him thinking. When he finally got the green light to employ it, he wasn’t so sure that it was right for the film at hand. For him as DP, it would mean a lot of extra work with planning the shots and knowing the film’s locations very well. But he kept at it and shot the film that way.

In this short cut-out from an interview Luca Guadagnino shortly explains what was the idea behind using only one lens:

The idea of using a Cooke S4 35mm lens for shooting the whole movie was to get the sense of the human eye and the simplicity. Director Guadagnino wanted the space to breathe still.

Other challenges of the shooting were the weather conditions. Mukdeeprom’s initial idea was to shoot only with natural light, but that later proved impossible due to exceptionally heavy rains in Italy at that time. The crew ended up using lots of light equipment – from 4K up to 18K ARRI Fresnels – because it was often cloudy, giving them only very few sunny moments. He also mentioned in an interview how shooting on film gave him the freedom to play with color grading and the final look of the film.

Call Me By Your Name, Source: imdb.com

Call Me By Your Name ended up getting several nominations and prizes for best cinematography for Mukdeeprom. After this movie, him and Luca Guadagnino worked together on another feature, the horror Suspiria, for which they used a whole variety of lenses.

Do you agree with limiting one of the aspects of cinematography, like for instance lens selection? If you have seen the movie, did you like how the cinematography turned out? Let us know in the comments below.

Via Deadline and Indiewire

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Raymond Oelrich
Raymond Oelrich
Member
September 3rd, 2020

I love the idea. I am actually launching a website for this concept which is why I discovered this movie in a Google search. I am going to showcase my own films and those of others, like this one, on http://www.OneLensFilm.com as soon as I get the site done.

 Chuck Braverman
Chuck Braverman
Member
January 22nd, 2018

Wow! This is pretty amazing. I saw the film and the compliment to the film is that I was not caught up in the technology of film vs digital. Never would have guessed only one lens. This reminds me somewhat of the Dogma 95 movement where some directors vowed to not use lights or anything other than what was real in the scene. On one level it is an interesting experiment. But using only one lens seems like a film school test. But it certainly worked for these guys.

Member
January 19th, 2018

He is not inventing the warm water. Many Cinematographers had shot movies with just one lens. Some Japanese Cinematographers are known for shooting with the 35 or just a 50 and move the camera. I believe Sidney Pollacks The Yakuza was shot entirely on a 50mm lens.

Ramy Daniel
Guest
January 19th, 2018

Dog Tooth too

Darren J Burns
Guest
January 19th, 2018

Would have sped up production BONUS

Member
January 18th, 2018

I truly love the limitations like this. It makes you simplify your approach. If you want to see this to the extreme watch any film by the Japanese master, Ozu. He not only used just a 50mm lens for every film he made but also prohibited himself from using any pans or tilts. Yet, his films are far from static or slow moving.

Member
January 19th, 2018
Reply to  Tim Naylor

But I don’t ascribe to notions that any particular lens simulates the human eye. For instance, as I write on this computer, though my vision spans far wider almost the entire room, the true mental image is the tiny box in front of me. In many ways, using multiple focal lengths along with edits is probably closer to human perception especially as it relates to stories than one lens floating around for an entire film like “Bird Man”. Just walking down the street, one’s attention scans quickly from point to point, never floating like steadicam. It doesn’t invalidate such approaches as long as they succeed in relaying a compelling story. But sometimes, a flawed philosophy for a technique can lead to flawed storytelling, such as “Bushwick” or “Rope”.

 Markus Magnon
Markus Magnon
Member
April 29th, 2018
Reply to  Tim Naylor

“In many ways, using multiple focal lengths along with edits is probably closer to human perception ”

NOT TRUE!

Look at fisheye. Or look at 200, 300, 500 mm lenses. You will NEVER see like that with your eyes. With your eyes you only have one vision… and it is something between 30mm and 50mm. If you want to focus you have to get closer to an objekt. If you want to see a whole building you have to step back. Exactly what you have to do with just one 35mm lens.

Raymond Oelrich
Raymond Oelrich
Member
September 3rd, 2020
Reply to  Markus Magnon

I have measured this many times. The key is what part of the view is in focus and what part is peripheral. The human eye is closer to a 17mm to 20mm lens on a 35mm camera, but on a 35mm movie camera that is a 1.5 crop factor, so the 35mm lens is actually closer to 50mm, far narrower than the human eye. If you doubt this, look through a 50mm lens on a full frame camera, measure the right and left side, top and bottom in some manner, then step back from the camera. You will see the human eye sees about twice as wide and twice as high as the image in the viewfinder. Try it with a 17mm to 20mm lens on a 35mm full-frame camera and see that is much closer. I think 15mm is about the width of our eyes, far wider than 30-50mm. Try it for yourself.

Jonathan Burnside
Guest
January 18th, 2018

Glen Matthews

Glen Matthews
Guest
January 18th, 2018

The best lens

 Gregory Gillaspie
Gregory Gillaspie
Member
January 18th, 2018

I completely agree with this philosophy- and having my own collection of interesting lenses that don’t match, I shoot entire pieces with one lens a lot.
However, Cinema5D… why in the world would you write this article without finding out WHAT lens they were using? Yes, it was a 35mm. Cooke? Leica? Zeiss?
That’s just sloppy. If you can’t find out what lens was used, at least acknowledge that you tried, or wait to post the article until you’ve figured it out.

 John Prescott
John Prescott
Member
January 19th, 2018

Canon kit lens.

To quote National Lampoon’s Vacation…
Clark: Real tomato ketchup Eddie?
Eddie: Nothin’ but the best….

 Paul Curtis
Member
January 19th, 2018

In the credits it said that it was a 35mm Cooke.

Whilst it was a wonderful film overall i thought there were some issues with the cinematography, but that’s a personal thing. The restrictive lens idea is great. However for a good chunk of the film that lens either had debris on it or got cracked which actually was a bit distracting…

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