Sure, in film criticism ‘style over substance’ is a frequently heard critique, and more often than not it is a valid point of criticism. Films might be beautiful, stylish and visually stunning, but when they are merely empty shells, they might just as well have been fragrance commercials.
But, without faking too much sincerity here, I do believe that when a film lacks substance it almost inevitably is also unable to display pure beauty. It therefore comes as no surprise that on this list of the most beautiful films of 2010-2015, the most visually spectacular films with the most impressive cinematography have all been directed and shot by genuine men of cinema. People that have a story to tell. And then there is the rare occasion when a story is not necessary, and style becomes substance. Here is my list of the most visually stunning films of the 10’s up to 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Beautiful American Indies and Hollywood films, but also a few stunning foreign films.
What was there to see in 2015? Beautiful cinematography in 2015/2016
A name that deserves a special mention here is my fellow countryman Hoyte van Hoytema, a Dutch cinematographer who is on every director’s wish list. In the last few years he made a name for himself with the hugely diverse but always stunning cinematography of an incredible variety of films – from art house hits like the horror film Let the right one in (2008) and the Swedish Call Girl (2012) to American indies like The Fighter (2010) and Jonze’s Her (2013). Now in 2014 he was in charge of the cinematography of perhaps the biggest American blockbuster of this year. He was asked by Christopher Nolan to do Interstellar (2014). In 2015 he is asked to do the new James Bond film, Spectre, directed by Sam Mendes. It would be great if he can bring his eye for beauty to 007 films, and do Roger Deaking (the cinematographer of the Coen Brothers) and his Skyfall justice.
All below cinematographers will be discussed in more detail in the 2010-2015 list.
Knight of Cups (2016)
Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki
We will discuss director Terrence Malick, and his collaborator Emmanuel Lubezki in much more detail with regard to The Tree of Life, but for now suffice it to say that no team can better pull off non-narrative dreamlike cinema. It is always a joy. And you must always make sure you see it in theaters. The film has been scheduled for ages, but was finally officially released in 2016.
The Revenant (2015)
Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki
There are not many trailers as breathtaking as The Revenant. It is the next collaboration between Emmanuel Lubezki and Alejandro G. Iñárritu, who already worked together on the visually challenging one-take film Birdman.