Writer-director John Michael McDonagh and cinematographer Larry Smith, ASC, BSC faced a race against time in the face of a threatening global pandemic to capture the vibrant colors and contrasting scenes of the Moroccan landscape for the feature film The Forgiven, starring Jessica Chastain, Ralph Fiennes, and Matt Smith.
The Forgiven takes place over a weekend in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco and explores the reverberations of a random accident on the lives of both the locals and western visitors attending a house party in a grand villa. Filming for The Forgiven took place during a five-week period at the beginning of 2020, under a very tight schedule as the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic became apparent.
Smith was struck by the light and vibrant color scene of Morocco as well as the wide vistas, but at the same time he realized the challenges created by the desert conditions and the short time frame. All circumstances factored in the choice of trusted, reliable equipment was an essential factor for the project to succeed. In the end he opted for the Cooke Anamorphic/i lenses, provided by MovieTech, combined with a Sony Venice camera, to capture this highly cinematic landscape in its full frame glory.
Smith has vast experience with Cooke’s S4/i lenses, and prior to starting on The Forgiven he had been shooting with the Cooke S7/i full frame lenses. “For me, the choice of the lens comes down to trust and knowing that the lenses I choose are going to perform exactly how I visualize the scene in my head,” he said. “That’s what I get with the Cookes generally, and also on this occasion with the Anamorphic/i’s.”
Night shots were the most complicated to shoot, according to Smith. “Logistically this was a nightmare as the scenes were shot in the desert, miles away from the closest town, which meant that the lighting and other equipment took forever to arrive. But if anything, these challenges make you prouder of the end result as a cinematographer," he said.
“As a cinematographer, all you worry about is that when you connect the lens to the camera, whether the combination of the two will deliver exactly what you had in mind,” said Smith. “The Cookes with the Sony Venice delivered this for me. With a tight schedule, unknown landscapes and changing weather, trust in my kit and my years of experience is all that is left.”