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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Filmmaking > Light Keeps Me Company (Documentary)

Light Keeps Me Company†† (Documentary)


Picture: C+†††† Sound: B-†††† Extras: C-†††† Film: B+



Light Keeps Me Company is the cleverly titled documentary about master cinematographer Sven Nykvist.This documentary was a tribute piece shot by his son Carl Gustaf Nykvist, which runs approximately 76 minutes in length and includes some absorbing footage as well as some important interviews with some of the collaborators that Sven has worked with in his career as a cameraman.Nykvist is most notably known for his delicacy and intimate lighting schemes, which would create some of the most memorable moments on film.


Nykvist is most prominently known for his work with fellow Swede and master filmmaker Ingmar Bergman.These two would collaborate on many films including Cries and Whispers (1972), Autumn Sonata (1978), and Fanny and Alexander (1982). Nykvist would also play a vital role in films for other great directors including Woody Allen, Louie Malle, Roman Polanski, Andrei Tarkovsky, Alan J. Pakula, Norman Jewison, Philip Kaufmann, and Lasse Hallstrom.Although he would only win two Oscars for his work Sven is still considered one of the best cinematographers the format has known.


The only problem with watching material like this is that it fuels ones desire to go out and try and watch all of these amazing films, but unfortunately many of them are either not available, available but expensive, or available but in poor quality.When watching a film that is shot remarkably well, with superb lighting the worst case is having to tolerate a poor viewing either because the film is not presented in its original aspect ration or the film has suffered from generation loss and requires some serious restoration.Some of Svenís best work is available on DVD though including the recently released Roman Polanski thriller The Tenant (reviewed on this site), The Unbearable Lightness of Being issued by Criterion, but now out-of-print, as well as a few other Criterion issued films such as The Magic Flute, Cries and Whispers, Autumn Sonata, and the upcoming Ingmar Bergman box set.


You certainly do not have to know much about being a cameraman or even much about film to appreciate the nature of this documentary.Much of the material plays out similar to that of a biography that might be seen on a cable station, in which the primary focus is to explain the life of an individual through the words of others.Svenís work speaks for itself and his lengthy career and work as both a cinematographer and even later as a director will be recognized in film circles forever.His contributions were unanimous and what remains true about his impressive work is that he was never Ďflashyí, but kept things simple despite a tumultuous lifestyle at times dealing with the suicide of his eldest son as well as a heated affair with Mia Farrow.


First Fun Features has presented Light Keeps Me Company in a very admirable edition of an important documentary.The film is presented in a 1.66:1 aspect ration that works well for this material.The interviews work well in this ratio as does most of the material, but the films are typically cropped and can pose a slight problem in some cases.Most of Svenís work was shot in Academy Standard Flat or 1.66:1.He must have subscribed to Fritz Langís belief that scope was for filming funerals and snakes!Light Keeps Me Company was filmed in 16mm, which looks good despite being a non-anamorphic transfer.


What is somewhat impressive here is the sound quality considering all the different types of material that is presented.From the interviews, which are taken at various times, to the variety of film clips and other segments the audio never loses its credibility despite being a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track that is often a problem with documentaries as they tend to be too cluttered or monophonic in nature.This however pulls off very well and allows the viewer to never be distracted as the film proceeds in taking you all over the place in Svenís career.


Even though this documentary by itself is worth its retail price First Run Features has included some extras as well.The disc comes with a foreword from Carl-Gustaf Nykvist that sets up his film and gives some insight that was not covered in the film and can be viewed either before or after with nearly the same results.The only other extra, which is still very nice to have, is the entire listing of Svenís films.This is more for referencing than anything else, but still notable.



-†† Nate Goss


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