Sven Nykvist was considered by many in the industry to be one of the world's greatest cinematographers. During his long career that spanned almost half a century, Nyvist perfected the art of cinematography to its most simple attributes, and he helped give the films he had worked on the simplest and most natural look imaginable. Indeed, Mr. Nykvist prideed himself on the simplicity and naturalness of his lighting schemes. Nykvist used light to create mood and, more significantly, to bring out the natural flesh tones in the human face so that the emotion of the scene could be played out on the face without the light becoming intrusive.
Nykvist entered the Swedish film industry when he was 19 and worked his way up to becoming a director of photography. He first worked with the legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman on the film Sawdust and Tinsel (1953), but his collaboration with Bergman began in earnest with The Virgin Spring (1960). From that point on, Nykvist replaced the great Gunnar Fischer as Bergman's cameraman, and the two men started a collaboration that would last for a quarter of a century. The switch from Fischer to Nykvist created a marked difference in the look of Bergman's films. In many respects, it was like the difference between Caravaggio and Rembrandt. Fischer's lighting was a study in light and darkness, while Nykvist preferred a more naturalistic, more subtle approach that in many ways relied on the northern light compositions of the many great Scandinavian painters.
Nykvist's work with Bergman is one of the most glorious collaborations in movie history. Nykvist created a markedly different look for each installment of Bergman's Faith Trilogy. Through a Glass Darkly (1961) had an almost suffocating quality to it, and The Silence (1963) hearkened back to the days of German Expressionism. Winter Light (1963), the middle part of the trilogy, may very well be the most perfect work of Nykvist's repertoire. Having studied the light in a real provincial church carefully, he then recreated the subtle changes in the light as the day went on on a Stockholm sound stage. Indeed, it's hard to believe that the film was shot on a stage and not in a real church in Northern Sweden. For Persona (1966), Nykvist relied heavily on Sweden's famous Midnight Sun. In The Passion of Anna (1969), Nykvist was able to capture the chilly, soggy, and melancholy look of Faro, one of Nykvist's first color films Both Nykvist and Bergman were both very reluctant to film in color. He created a fascinating study of white and red in Cries & Whispers (1972), for which Nykvist won an Oscar. He won an Oscar again for the last feature-length theatrical film that Bergman made, Fanny and Alexander (1982).
During the late 1970s, Nykvist began making films elsewhere in Europe and in the United States, working for directors such as Louis Malle (Pretty Baby (1978)), Philip Kaufman (The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)), Bob Fosse (Star 80 (1983)), Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle (1993)), Woody Allen (Another Woman (1988), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)), Richard Attenborough (Chaplin (1992)), and fellow Swede Lasse Hallström (What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)). The documentary Ljuset håller mig sällskap (2000) paid homage to Nykvist, although it does not grant us any real secrets about his working methods. Nykvist died in 2006.
|Ulla Söderlind||(1952 - 1968) (divorced) 2 children|
|Ulrika Nykvist||(? - 1982) (her death)|
Father of Carl-Gustav Nykvist
Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1990
Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Cinematographers Branch).
Cinematographer & Camera operator.
Today we make everything so complicated. The lighting, the camers, the acting. It has taken me thirty years to arrive at simplicity.
Light is with you - you do not have to feel you are alone.
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