When he was 18, Pedro Luque found himself on a movie set for the first time. He had been studying art in his native Uruguay when one of his teachers was hired to be the production designer on an independent movie, and he enlisted Luque as a props assistant. "Pato Rodríguez-Maseda, who was an experienced DP from Uruguay, took a liking to me," he recalls. "I saw him working with such love and care, attention and thinking; I was struck."
Luque, who had been given a camera by his father at a young age and developed an interest in photography, enrolled at Escuela de cine del Uruguay. "That and my love for comic books and sci-fi literature conspired to get me into film school," he explains. "I found out that I was semi-good at that, and kept on doing it, and getting better, and liking it more."
The cinematographer broke out shooting genre films like 2016's Don't Breathe for director Fede Álvarez and 2020's Antebellum for Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz. His latest is Society of the Snow, a survival thriller from Spanish auteur J. A. Bayona that Luque calls "the project I've always dreamt of."
"I had the opportunity to work with a director I admired deeply and who I admire more now. He is a man whose love for cinema is so profound and who is not afraid to explore the art — taking it seriously with all his soul. It made me re-learn all I knew, with joy, with compromise, with love," says the DP. "The experience of shooting this movie transcended the technical realm. I got to live the story and use my ability as a cinematographer to translate it into a cinematic experience."
Below, Luque shares with A.frame the five films that have most inspired him throughout his life. "I love cinema," he says, "and exploring how cinematography and the power of an image — through composition, color, movement and timing — can convey an emotion and tap into the unconscious. I'm always exploring and trying to push the medium so it can speak to me in its own language."
Directed by: Martin Scorsese | Cinematography by: Michael Chapman
I was a film student at Escuela de Cine del Uruguay when I saw Taxi Driver for the first time. It was a cold night in Montevideo, and I saw it at the Sala Pocitos theater as part of Cinemateca Uruguaya. It was a 35mm copy — a bit worn but still gleaming in color and contrast — and I couldn't believe how such a dark story could be so beautiful. It transmitted something that could only be explained by the power of cinema — a series of contradictions and feelings so powerful it was hypnotic. I understood that even the most disturbing dramas could be also beautiful.
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky | Cinematography by: Matthew Libatique
It was shown as part of the Uruguayan film festival, and we got to see it on a really big screen downtown. A still relatively unknown Aronofsky was roaming the streets of Montevideo. The experience was so visceral that my friend, director Gustavo Hernández, broke the armrest of his seat.
It taught us that you can make cinema with almost nothing. Eventually we ended up shooting our movie The Silent House with a meager budget, but it started our careers.
Directed by: Larry Clark | Cinematography by: Eric Alan Edwards
This one hit me really hard. I remember being struck by the realism and strength of its images, the almost documentary-like look of the film. It made the whole story more believable and raw. Somehow, the power of the story was elevated by this language chosen by Larry Clark.
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick | Cinematography by: Geoffrey Unsworth
2001: A Space Odyssey appeared as a VHS at home. My mom is a big movie fan, and I remember being a child and dozing off to the spaceship reaching Jupiter. Later, I was lucky to catch a glorious 70mm copy at the Egyptian, and by then, I knew everything about the movie. It's my favorite in terms of how the visuals were created; a lot of engineering put to the service of the story, a lot of ingenuity and hard work. I became a die-hard Kubrick fan. (Aren't we all?)
Directed by: Terry Gilliam | Cinematography by: Giuseppe Rotunno
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen was another one that I first watched on VHS. The father of Matías, a dear childhood friend, had a video club, and this movie was on repeat at his house. I think I was a little too young for it, but the endless fantasy and the risks taken by Terry Gilliam blew my mind. It gave us a peek into a completely made-up world, full of wild characters. It was a great escape from reality, and so much fun.