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A New Take on the Old West

Cinematographer Arnau Valls Colomer, AEC uncovers a new side of the American frontier in the miniseries The English.

A revenge story unlike any other, the six-episode Amazon miniseries The English follows an Englishwoman (played by Emily Blunt) who traverses a mythical 19th-century American Midwest in search of the man who murdered her son. Shooting in the countryside of Spain, writer-director Hugo Blick and cinematographer Arnau Valls Colomer, AEC brought a fresh perspective while building on the traditions of the Western genre. 

“Shooting a Western is a milestone in any cinematographer’s career,” Colomer shares, “and working with Hugo Blick on The English was one the most extraordinary professional challenges.

“The story questions so many traditional ideas we have about history and the Western,” the cinematographer continues. “I was thrilled by the complexity of the script and the excitement and commitment of the cast, and I was also spellbound by the genre. It was Jimmy Stewart who talked about the Western as ‘filmmaking at its most pure,’ and I couldn’t agree more. Working on The English has reminded me of my original inspiration to become a cinematographer.” 

Working with Panavision Paris, Colomer chose to employ Primo Anamorphic optics as the foundation for the visual language of The English. “Every decision I made on The English was part of our mission to create a new take on the Western," he explains. "The anamorphic lenses, the old-school style of lighting with a contemporary flavor, the use of grain, the color correction - we wanted to capture the 'Technicolor look' of the midcentury classics but with a new approach that would reflect the ambition of the script.

"We consistently used shots that were static, symmetric or asymmetric but perfectly composed; landscapes of either sky or earth but never in between; epic and poetic but keeping the intimacy of character," he adds. "As a child, Lawrence of Arabia made a huge impression on me; it taught me how to bring to life the inner world of its characters without losing a sublime vision. We strived for this with The English.”

Colomer notes that he draws inspiration from "a wide range of films, from the work of Krzysztof Kieslowski to the films of Quentin Tarantino, and I believe there is an approach that draws inspiration from both: work that is not only artistically ambitious but also able to thrill and excite. Perhaps that is the essence of the Western itself after all."