Dutch cinematographer Robby Muller, whose credits spanned such films as Repo Man; Paris, Texas; Breaking The Waves; and To Live And Die In LA, has passed away. His family told local media in Amsterdam that he died on Tuesday after a long illness. He was 78.
Müller was known as the “Master of Light” and drew comparisons to another famous Dutchman, “Girl With A Pearl Earring” painter Johannes Vermeer. Trained at the Netherlands Film Academy, Müller began his feature career with Wim Wenders’ German title Summer In The City in 1970. That kicked off a long collaboration with Wenders which went on to include The Scarlet Letter, Alice In The Cities, Kings Of The Road, The American Friend, Until The End Of The World and Paris, Texas.
Müller was also a frequent DP for Jim Jarmusch with whom he made Down By Law, Mystery Train, Dead Man, Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai and Coffee And Cigarettes. Dead Man scored Müller the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Critics Circle prizes for best cinematography. He also received those awards for Lars Von Trier’s 1996 love story Breaking The Waves and later shot the Danish helmer’s 2000 movie Dancer In The Dark.
Other credits included Peter Bogdonavich’s Saint Jack in 1979 and They All Laughed in 1981; Barbet Schroeder’s Barfly starring Mickey Rourke in 1987; and Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People from 2002, which was his last feature.
He was nominated for three Indie Spirits and was honored with the International Achievement Award from the American Society of Cinematographers in 2013. He was unable to attend the ceremony due to his health, but the ASC quotes Müller at the time saying, “When I choose to work on a film, the most important thing to me is that it is about human feelings. I try to work with directors who want their films to touch the audience, and make people discuss what the film was about long after they have left the cinema.”
John Bailey, writing the ASC tribute that year, noted, “His cinematography exemplifies singular artistry in an age that increasingly declaims ‘the death of cinema,’ regarding movies as just another entertainment platform. Müller came to cinematic maturity at a heady time when movies really mattered, when they were debated in student and intellectual circles with the passion that a generation earlier had been the province of the novel.”
Jarmusch was among the many reacting to news of Müller’s death today. He called the artist “brilliant & irreplaceable”: