He loved ‘El Norte’, and one of the reasons he called me and loved this movie was that he was doing something cinematic, like the visual effects breakthroughs he made with ‘2001 “, for example. He didn’t just make them with the idea that they would be perfect for “2001”. On the contrary, he felt he was opening a door for other filmmakers to come along, to inspire other artists, and, of course, “2001” had that effect. “Star Wars” and all of those movies leading up to today were born out of the work Stanley Kubrick did to make this huge breakthrough for “2001”.
But for “Barry Lyndon” he was doing the same. In other words, he was showing the world how to light scenes by candlelight only, and that was really the way to do it. And he was a little disappointed that people saw it as a one-time event, and it didn’t inspire other filmmakers to natural candlelight scenes.
When he saw “El Norte”, of course, I was very inspired by the lighting of “Barry Lyndon”, and we brought together what Kubrick had accomplished in “Barry Lyndon” with those super-fast lenses. We were able to approach exactly what he accomplished in “Barry Lyndon”, and that was very important to me with “El Norte”, because I wanted the light in “El Norte” to make a political statement, if you will. – an artistic statement, a cultural statement – because the main characters, Rosa and Enrique, come from a world of candles and kerosene. They did not have an electric light in their village in Guatemala. They didn’t encounter an electric light until they got to the United States and I wanted the light in the movie to reflect that.
When he saw “El Norte” he replied: “Yes! Finally, we have a filmmaker who understands what I was trying to do with “Barry Lyndon”. I was really trying to inspire other filmmakers to use this natural lighting technique for their films.
We’ve talked a lot about lighting and how lighting is used to make emotional and psychological statements. We talked a lot about camera movements. He was very interested in the story and so am I. There was a lot of talk about Julius Caesar and the strategies of the Battle of Alesia during the Gallic Wars. We went all over the place, and we got very close, and I was friends with him for many years.