Anton van Munster studied at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografica, in Rome. He is best known for his work with Bert Haanstra, one of the most successful directors in the history of Dutch cinema.
Documentaries with Bert Haansta:
The Human Dutch (Alleman 1963) Oscar nomination for best documentary.
Voice of The Water (De stem van het water 1966)
Ape and Super-Ape (Bij de beesten af 1972) Oscar nomination for best documentary.
Features with Bert Haanstra:
Doctor Pulder Sows Papavers (Dokter Pulder zaait papavers 1975)
Mr. Slotter’s Jubilee (Een pak slaag 1979)
One Could Laugh in Former Days (Vroeger kon je lachen 1983)
Van Munster shot mainly documentaries, often in wild nature:
A Cheetah Family (1999) director Alan Miller
Tanagire, river between two lakes (2001) director and camera Anton van Munster
Addo, King of animals (Addo, koning der dieren 2002) director Hugo van Lawick
African Bambi (2007) about a mother giraffe and her three gazelle fawns, director Alan Miller.
National Parks.. Necessarily (Nationale Parken.. Noodzaak 1978)
The Netherlands (Nederland 1983)
Childeren of Ghana (Kinderen van Ghana 1988)
Anton van Munster: what I like about this work is that every shot I made still functions for me as a little bit of adrenaline. If you film animals for example, you need to know at least something about those animals. Without a good understanding it is just very difficult, no matter if you film animals or people. When this misunderstanding happens I feel blocked and there is distance and distrust. But sometimes it is still possible to develop a good relationship in a very short time. You could meet in the afternoon and an hour later be wonderfully on your way. When the people you film are busy doing their own things, it’s more easy.
I still support the films I made with Bert (Bert Haanstra), because back then they excited me. Before filming, he would make an operating plan and if possible, a complete timetable. Of course it was still possible to change things during filming, but he always worked thematically. That is what gave me the chance to work towards a clear goal. It becomes really difficult if the director leaves everything to you, because then... who makes the film?
We made The Voice of Water, a film about the North Sea fishery.
I will give you an example of what I still consider to be a success. At the fish market we filmed a fisher who was observing how much his fish would be auctioned for and Bert wanted a shot of the same man working at sea on his boat. This was a simple task, but to get the shot, I had to go for a week with the boat, because that is how long they would be gone for. We left early Monday-morning and came back on Friday. I went along on the cutter, but there was hardly any wind. We were going up and down, it was very boring. We needed wind, because people imagine hardworking men, pulling fish out of the water, half an hour of sleep and back to work, so to speak. Fortunately, later that week the wind picked up. I took also several shots that I had not discussed with Bert, pulling up the nets, cleaning the fish, and sailing back to Holland.
One day later he called me at half past one in the morning, euphorically, the material looked just great. I went straightaway to see him, Bert was a through and through film-editor. That‘s how our co-operation worked, I always had the feeling that I had something contributed. I got freedom from him because he trusted me.
Framing has always been very important and interesting to me. It is one of the reasons why Bert Haanstra and I could always get along so well. We made the same frames.
I automatically know where I want to have the horizon; low, high, in the middle, I don't have to think about it.
Visual language is actually quite limited: a composition is either good or it’s not. Within that realm, it is about style. It can be very precise and accurate or very loose. But it always remains a composition, there is always a frame. By choosing your lenses you create your own style. That is how you can express yourself.
What I really liked was filming for an Imax Omnimax production. Technically it was great and there was money for it. I could lose myself in all the possibilities that the medium offered.
At the academy in Rome, I filmed with VistaVision, which is a very old system. The film is pulled horizontally through the camera (horizontal pulldown). Of course we filmed with Cinemascope lenses (anamorphic lenses), so I did know about the technique.
In 1966 I filmed Voice of The Water in Techniscope 2perf. With Techniscope, you can make Cinemascope-like images, without using an anamorphic lens on the camera, but just a normal lens.
It’s a sort of cheap Cinemascope. You expose a small part of the 35 mm film negative, (2 perf instead of 4 perf).
Those half 35 mm images are very close to each other and there are barely frame lines.
In a film laboratory these images will be optically stretched in height, you than get a picture that looks like an anamorphic image.
In a theatre, the projection with an anamorphic lens is the same as Cinemascope.
As a cameraman, I have a passion for light. This passion is the reason why I wanted to learn this trade. I grew up with the phenomenon of light, through the art of painting, but also because of the location where I lived. I grew up surrounded by nature, my parents were always up very early. I saw a lot of sunrises and sunsets as well as eclipses.
If you say, I just want brilliant images, a higher visual quality, I believe this can only be achieved with film material. In a film emulsion the silver grains are widespread, very dense, but not regular. A digital image is a mathematical, inflexible image. In that sense, digital imagery is different. The graininess of film is much more pleasant to watch. You can compare it to an original oil painting. It will always make a different impression than its reproduction that hangs next to it. Regardless of how fine and precise the latter is.
The digital revolution cannot be undone and it is a big improvement.
I still hope that making a film on film material, will not be thrown overboard and not be seen as a curiosity. That film negative will still be used, it is a excellent stunning visually medium. Magnificently bright, sharp and clean. I hope that real cinematography will not disappear, as happened to still photography. Look, the painters of the 17th century mixed their oil-paint, and this can still be done as well today.
Anton van Munster was honoured Knight of the order of Oranje-Nassau
By Bart van Broekhoven (interview), Paul van den Bos (editing) Barbara Suters (transcription), Gerlinda Heywegen/Peter Verstraten (final version)