Far From The Madding Crowd hit the big screen this year and was a new adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel of the same name. The movie saw Thomas Vinterberg back in the director's chair, while Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Michael Sheen were on a great cast list.

Far From The Madding Crowd

Far From The Madding Crowd

Charlotte Christensen served as director of photography and she chatted about working on this film, reuniting with Vinterberg, and teaming up with some great actors.

- What were your inspirations in terms of the visuals for Far From The Madding Crowd?

There were a lot of decisions made in pre-production, just talking about the style of the movie and how we wanted to keep it true to Thomas Hardy's novel - to not try and make a modern Far From The Madding Crowd.

We wanted it to have energy but not a forced energy, to stay with what it is, and we were inspired by some of the old movies like Gone With The Wind, Doctor Zhivago, Fanny And Alexander and some of the old classics. We wanted to try and get that sweeping romance, to sit the audience in a chair where they can just watch the film and not be stressed in a sense.

- Was Thomas Hardy's novel a reference point for you during filming?

I read it as I was prepping. I always read things twice because the first time you get the story and the second time you dig into the details of his writing. Then I kept the book by my side just because of all his vivid descriptions. I underlined all these passages. It's very hard to do a nice landscape. You step out of your car when you're in some foreign country, you take a picture because it's a beautiful view, then you get home and show it to people and it doesn't work. So I was studying landscape paintings just to understand 'How do you get the dimensions right?' For Hardy of course Dorset is a main character. You can't just do a beautiful image - it has to be the right texture and the right shadows.

I was trying to understand 'What is it he sees?' For the wide shots I always have a specific thing you're watching; it's not just a view, it's the sheep and the shadows falling behind the sheep. The decisions are made in the wide shot, if that makes sense, and I was working on trying to get character into those wide shots.

- What were the challenges of working on the Dorset, Oxfordshire, Bucks and London locations?

I'm really proud of it of the finished film but it was a tough shoot because we decided to shoot it 100% on location whereas on a film like this you'd normally do more controlled environments in studios. But we decided to do it all on location, which is obviously very stressful because you spend a lot of your shooting time travelling around and it was a very tight schedule. We shot a lot more than there is in the finished film.

I said to Thomas [Vinterberg, the director] that he must do a director's cut for the DVD. There are restrictions for the cinema and you have to stick to two hours or what have you but if we could do a three-hour version I tell you it would be an absolute masterpiece. And working on location? I loved Dorset so much. [Laughs] I'm going to go and live there. The place and the people are just amazing. It has the most beautiful light and sea mist when the waves come in.

- It looks like you use a lot of natural light?

I work a lot with natural light, yes. That's who I am as a photographer. I'm inspired by natural light, I work with it and I try and recreate it. I wanted the audience to get right into the movie so I wasn't interested in glamorous, perfect backlighting. Another thing we called a character on the film was blackness. The landscapes are a character and then there's the darkness. With some filmed blacks you see into it but we decided that for this film when we go black it's really black.

- Is there anything you're particularly proud of about the finished film?

I'm proud of the consistency of it. There's not a specific scene that I think is the most beautiful, I feel we've got a complete world and that was our dream - to create a whole so when people have seen it they don't go 'Oh, that particular scene was spectacular'. It's about the style and the look and the overall feel.

- You also worked with director Thomas Vinterberg on Submarino and The Hunt. Do you now have a shorthand when you work together?

Yes, there's a trust there. If I see something I will just go for it and he knows we share a vision. We never really discuss visuals as such; we discuss the story and he's very trusting in me finding the shot. We don't speak a lot about a specific image. I'm very in charge of the images but it's always about working towards his vision of the story and characters. I overhear all the conversations he has on set with the actors and that's where my ideas come from.

It makes us stronger that we both go at the same time, working on the same idea, and if an actor comes up with some idea I grab it. We do a lot of preparation so we have a lot of ideas already but once you're filming there's often something more. We're prepared but we're always looking for that magic and that extra something, like 'What can the actors give to the role?'

- How was it working with this particular cast?

Carey [Mulligan, who plays Bathsheba] is a star. She's one of the best actresses in the UK, I think. It's a very fragile role but she does it with charm and there are moments where you don't really like her. She can't just be this nice, little beauty; she has to have that edge. I think it's a fantastic cast and I'm very inspired by faces and how to light the individual face. I don't have a theory of a basic set-up, it's about going with this character or that character.

I had one specific lens for Carey and I had another way of lighting Matthias [Schoenaerts, who plays Gabriel Oak] which was much harder. She had some softer filters but he was always much more clean because when it comes to his skin tone Hardy had pages of description about Gabriel Oak's skin - the weather-beaten, leathery look. Because we had the luxury of shooting on film we could capture that quality. At times the difficult decision is to not do stuff. Often people do too much and suddenly the magic is gone. With this film it was a lot about taking away. I'd put up lights and suddenly think 'You know what, just turn them off and let's have just one light'.

Several times we did that, like the silhouettes when they're in the doorway. We lit it, then when they were actually there it was 'Let's turn everything off' and it was much more beautiful that way, with the rain outside, and when he walks away in the rain I only had one light.

- Do you enjoy the process of working with the same director over and over again?

Very much so. Thomas is the one I've made the most films with. I recently made a film [Life] with Anton Corbijn and I know that when we've made several films together, which hopefully we will, we'll have a similar working relationship. It adds something when you get to know each other well. It's like marriage, you know? When you know each other it's not such a big deal when it's 'Oh, he does that because...' It's a case of 'I'll leave him for a minute to do his thing' whereas when you're young lovers you go at each other a lot.

- The film is going to look amazing on Blu-ray. What do you feel the format offers in terms of the home viewing experience?

This film will work really well in that format. It's a film that was shot for cinema but people have small cinemas in their homes now so I feel they will still see the scope we were aiming for.

- HD and digital means that films are now preserved forever. That must be great to know?

Absolutely. It's really nice to know.

Far From The Madding Crowd is released on DVD 31st August.