Celebrated Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller has passed away

Robby Müller (photo by Bart Dewaele)

5 July 2018

Cinematographer Robby Müller passed away in his hometown Amsterdam on July 3.

Harry Dean Stanton in the Texan desert, Johnny Depp floating to sea by canoe: Robby Müller, the Netherlands' foremost cinematographer, is responsible for many memorable shots from modern classics such as Paris, Texas, Dead Man, Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Down by Law, Repo Man, Barfly and 24 Hour Party People. These films owe their acclaim partly to Müller's camera work, as through his work, he managed to create a unity between narrative, atmosphere and image. Müller was director of photography for about 75 films and worked together with Wim Wenders, Jim Jarmusch and Lars von Trier several times. He also performed camera work for films by, among others, Peter Bogdanovich, William Friedkin, John Schlesinger, Barbet Schroeder, Andrzej Wajda, Alex Cox and Michael Winterbottom.

virtuoso

Robby Müller's maxim was that the camera supports the story. He did not want to impose with his camera, instead trying to give the viewer the sense they themselves were discovering something. In his trademark wide shots and long takes Müller preferred to use the natural light present on location. Although he was a virtuoso with light and dark, he never just shot beautiful pictures; the story and atmosphere of the film had to complement each other.

an eye for coincidence

Müller was always open to technological developments and was looking for new ways to create artistic and, in his eyes, aesthetic images. Examples include the 'handheld' camera in Breaking the Waves, working with video in 24 Hour Party People and using 100 cameras for Dancer in the Dark. The use of something like a zoom lens was completely uninteresting to Müller because it offered far too easy a solution for crossing distance. Müller liked to improvise and always kept an eye open for coincidences or surprising occurrences, which he integrated in his films.

career

Robby Müller (Willemstad, Curaçao, 1940 - Amsterdam, 2018) studied camera and editing at the Dutch Film Academy in Amsterdam. Müller left for Germany in 1969, where he would play a key role in the Neuer Deutscher Film through his collaborations with Wim Wenders (including Der Amerikanische Freund in 1977 and Paris, Texas in 1984). Müller manned the camera for directors like Jim Jarmusch, Lars von Trier, William Friedkin, Peter Bogdanovich, John Schlesinger, Sally Potter and Alex Cox. Müller won numerous awards. He received the Bert Haanstra oeuvre prize in 2009. In 2013 he was awarded the American Society of Cinematography's International Award.

master of light

In 2016 he was honoured with the exhibition Master of Light, which was the first time his personal archives, which consisted of hundreds of Polaroids, photos and video diaries, were made public on such a large scale. The exhibition travelled to Berlin the following year. These archives also served as the basis for a new film about Robby's unique vision, work and life, Claire Pijman's Living the Light (2018). Jim Jarmusch provided the score. This autumn, coinciding with Living in the Light's premiere, Eye will organise a special film evening to commemorate and celebrate Müller's work.

To view this video, you need to accept cookies click here

He’s a great painter, one of the Dutch Masters, a traveler from the great era of painting across the age of film and right into the digital kingdom. A pioneer.” Wim Wenders

I learnt so much from this man; about filmmaking; about a lot of things in life in general; and about light and about recording things and about capturing things in the moment and about trusting instinct.” Jim Jarmusch