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Cinematographer David Cailley creates a hybrid aesthetic for The Animal Kingdom

Apr 12, 2024

Co-written and directed by Thomas Cailley, The Animal Kingdom (Le règne animal) follows a father and son’s adventure to find their family’s matriarch after she falls victim to an epidemic that’s turning humans into animals. The feature-length film was an endeavor among family members behind the camera as well, as Thomas teamed with his brother, cinematographer David Cailley, to envision it all. Captured with Primo 70 lenses and a camera package provided by Panavision Paris, the project’s distinct look stems from the Cailley brothers’ ability to bridge their inspirations with technology. Cinematographer David Cailley discussed with Panavision the inspirations and instruments that helped the filmmakers bring their shared vision to life.

Panavision: How did you become involved in The Animal Kingdom?

David Cailley: I was involved in this film very early on. Thomas made me read the first versions of the script, we went to do pre-scouting in the region two years before filming, to get inspiration, find the identity of the film’s image, the degree of realism in which it was necessary to locate the settings.

How would you describe the look of the project?

Cailley: We were attracted by a film look, and we also wanted to benefit from the advantages of digital — longer takes, small cameras, increased sensitivity at night. As with the creatures in the film, I had the impression that the idea was to have a hybrid image, which sits at the border of these different technologies.

Were there any particular visual references that you looked to for inspiration?

Cailley: We had quite different references. It went from The Host by Bong Joon Ho, to Running on Empty by Sydney Lumet.

What attracted you to the Primo 70 lenses?

Cailley: I really wanted the look of Panavision lenses, though I wasn’t sure which lens series. We debated between anamorphic and spherical. We did some tests and were very convinced by the Primo 70s, which have incredible definition and discreet, elegant flares while maintaining softness in the highlights, which gives an organic appearance to the image.

What inspired you to become a cinematographer, and what inspires you today?

Cailley: The films I’ve seen, of course, but I also think it was my father’s camcorder. This magical side of transforming reality into a film — when watching a film, I always wonder how it’s made, how it gets on a screen. Most of the time we don’t really know why a film works. It is an inert object that becomes alive. This is what inspires me, all the films that touch me without knowing exactly why, the images that remain, that are imprinted in our memory.

Photos by David Cailley, Ivan Mathie, and Erwan Becquelin.

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