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'Heat and Dust' had a different feel to other Pinewood films

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Heat and Dust: lighting equipment and techniques
Walter Lassally Film-maker
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The next film I made with them was "Heat and Dust", which was a major production. And, it came to me while I was working in Zimbabwe. They asked me to do that. It came immediately afterwards, and I was very glad to be working with them again. Because there'd been a bit of a pause, something like four years, in fact. "Heat and Dust" was made in Hyderabad in the south of India, or central south of India, I suppose. Again, we used the maharaja's palace that- or the Nawab's palace that Ismail was successful in arranging for us. No studio scenes. All on location. Quite tricky lighting jobs with minimum equipment, as before. Something like- by that time, though, HMI lights had been developed and I had- I think I had four HMI lights of different sizes, one of which packed up in the second week and couldn't be replaced until much later, so we had to make do with only one 4k HMI. I think we had one 4k, three 175s and two 500W ones. Not 175s, sorry. We had two 4ks, three 1250s and three 500s and two 200W ones which can also operate on a battery, and was useful for car shots and stuff like that. And we had a complement of tungsten lighting. The HMI lighting was mainly used for daylight stuff, daytime scenes. Again, it was used largely reflected, in a reflective mode. That was the first Indian film that I was able to use HMI lights on, because they'd only just been invented. And they come in very handy because they give you a lot of light for very little current output- input. The story of "Heat and Dust" is in two parts. There are two stories which are inter-linked. One is- takes place in the 1920s and the other one is contemporary. When we were discussing how to treat this photographically, I persuaded James- I was able to persuade James to leave that differentiation to me, and I would do it in a subtle way. I wouldn't do it in a slightly crude way by putting on a filter for the 20s sequence and not putting on a filter for the 80s sequence. So the whole film, as all my other films of that period, I shot through some form of net or some form of star filter, which the- later replaced the net, but served the same purpose. And that net is on- net or star filter, is on every shot, regardless of whether it's a close-up or a long shot, or whatever. And that worked very successfully. I was very happy with the results, because it pastelises the colour and, at the same time, diffuses the image just slightly, which is particularly important in period films. So I could've said, right, I'll use the star filter, or the net, on the period sections, but not on the contemporary sections, but I didn't want to do that because I felt that photography without this filter looked awfully crude, and I didn't want anything to look like that. It looked very picture-postcardy, very contrasty. So I said, well, you leave it to me and with a little bit of luck, it should be okay. So, we just- I just put it at the back of mind and when we were shooting the 1920s sequence, if I saw a very exaggerated colour or a lot of contrast, I panned off it or I kept it out of the frame, or whatever. Not all the scenes in this 20s section are very pastel. There are scenes with a whole lot of women wearing very colourful saris, but that was appropriate to the scene. So it's really what I've just said, it's really putting a concept at that back of your mind and then dealing with it if something goes against that concept. And luck plays a big part. There are scenes where the same building plays two functions. The house that is the bungalow which Greta Scacchi occupies in the 20s section, is all- is the place where the- where the- Julie Christie's landlord works in the 1980s section. As luck would have it, the day we photographed the 1920s bit, it was misty and it was a little more pastel than the day when we photographed the 1980 thing. But, you can't plan for that and you can't wait for that, unless you have an awful lot of time or money, which we never did have. So a little bit of luck is an essential ingredient. And of course, those two scenes were separated by some months, because we did all- let's see, I think we did all Greta's scenes first and then Greta and Julie only met up for one day, actually. Greta left and Julie arrived, or the other way around. Except for the Kashmir section where they came back again to meet for that one shot, near the end of the film where they're all in the same shot. But usually, of course, they didn't meet because they were living in different periods. So we shot all the Julie Christie stuff and then we shot all the Greta Scacchi stuff. It was Greta's second film. She'd only made one minor film before that, which I think was an Italian film, because she's of Italian origin. She was very, very good. I liked her very much. Her playing was very good. The atmosphere in that film was very nice. But it wasn't always easy. It had easy bits and it had a lot of difficult bits as well.

Born in Germany, cinematographer Walter Lassally (1926-2017) was best known for his Oscar-winning work on 'Zorba the Greek'. He was greatly respected in the film industry for his ability to take the best of his work in one area and apply it to another, from mainstream to international art films to documentary. He was associated with the Free Cinema movement in the 1950s, and the British New Wave in the early 1960s. In 1987 he published his autobiography called 'Itinerant Cameraman'.

Listeners: Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen is a Canadian who came to Europe to study and never got round to heading back home. He did his undergraduate work at Carleton University (in Biology) in Ottawa, and then did graduate work at the University of Western Ontario (in Zoology). After completing his doctorate at Oxford (in the Department of Zoology), followed with a year of postdoc at the University of London, he moved to the University's newly-established Audio-Visual Centre (under the direction of Michael Clarke) where he spent four years in production (of primarily science programs) and began to teach film. In 1974 Bowden became Director of the new Audio-Visual Centre at the University of Warwick, which was then in the process of introducing film studies into the curriculum and where his interest in the academic study of film was promoted and encouraged by scholars such as Victor Perkins, Robin Wood, and Richard Dyer. In 1983, his partner and he moved to Greece, and the following year he began to teach for the University of Maryland (European Division), for which he has taught (and continues to teach) biology and film courses in Crete, Bosnia, and the Middle East.

Duration: 5 minutes, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008