Tasked with the job of being the cinematographer on the last two of Alejandro G. Iñárritu's films, Emmanuel Lubezki had an immense challenge before him. These two films were Birdman and The Revenant, which were shot back to back and were extremely difficult to complete. Due to the immersive nature that Iñárritu likes to employ, most of his films revolve around extremely long takes that allow the audience to feel as if they themselves were in the moment. However, this is easier said than done for Lubezki. For The Revenant, Alejandro wanted to shoot the film in extremely long takes as well as with all natural light, to give a more authentic feel to the film overall. To accomplish the beautiful shots that were achieved, the crew was constantly pressed for time. "We had very few hours of light. When we started, maybe four or 5 hours of usable daylight, and sometimes less than that." Some of the shots took place during "blue hour", the time shortly after the sun sets. This blue hue only lasts about 10-20 minutes at most, so they often had very few chances to get it right.
Another incredibly astonishing scene was the scene where Glass, the main character of the film, gets attacked by a bear. The whole attack was filmed in one continuous shot, so many hours of prep and discussions went into how exactly they were going to pull the scene off. This begs the question, how would you film such an intense scene in just one take? Lubezki and Alejandro had decided that a trained bear wouldn't feel as real or chaotic as they would have liked, so they turned to visual effects. After many rehearsals and the choreography for the fight was decided, Lubezki was much more confident that they could pull it off.
Lubezki also maintains the fact that he and Alejandro do not utilize these continuous long takes to look cool or flashy, but rather as a tool effectively tell the story in the most genuine way possible. He feels that the long takes in Birdman, the first film he worked on with Alejandro, contributed to the story greatly. Although it was an extremely difficult process to work out the blocking of the actors and the camera movements that were needed to make the entire movie feel as if it were a single shot, I would say that neither of them regret the decisions that they had made because both of these films are experiences that are unparalleled in cinema today.