The Last Kingdom cinematographer talks Seven Kings Must Die

The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die. Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred in The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023
The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die. Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred in The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023 /

The historical Netflix epic The Last Kingdom recently reached its conclusion with the feature film The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die, which wrapped up the journey of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, played by Alexander Dreymon. Seven Kings Must Die  is written by Martha Hillier and directed by Ed Bazalgette, and takes place eight years after the events of season 5 of The Last Kingdom.

We pick up with Uhtred as the warrior leader of a region of Northumbria following the death of King Edward, who’s passing creates a plethora of difficulties. Edward’s son Aethelstan (Harry Gilby) has now risen to power and has ambitions to unite all the kingdoms of England, which will involve overthrowing eight kings. Uhtred is aware of a prophecy which states that seven of these kings will die, and he must choose where his loyalty lies: with the new King, or with England.

The movie was a gargantuan task for head cinematographer Luke Bryant. Speaking with MovieWeb, he shared how he undertook this challenge.

Filming the big battle in The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die

“The main difference between what we did in the preceding five seasons of the show is that anamorphic style,” Bryant said. “An audience member will always be aware of it, even though they might not be able to tell you that the anamorphic lens is a wider aspect ratio, or the depth-of-field of those kinds of things. But they noticed it. Audiences are smarter than we give them credit for.”

The decision to retain hand-held cameras ensured that Seven Kings Must Die remained “true to the visual DNA of the show” while giving the movie an almost documentary feel. There is a grittiness to the photography that immerses the viewer in the story. “We wanted to raise the stakes and give you a wider aspect ratio, where everything looks a bit more epic on screen,” Bryant said. “Anamorphic lenses basically squeeze the image when it goes on to the center, when something is out of focus, you get beautiful pockets and the quality of what is happening.”

The final battle of Seven Kings Must Die was filmed over 10 days. Bryant says it was the most challenging part of the shoot. “We were generally running for cameras, and we had a drone at the same time. So, trying to maintain a continuity, especially when we were filming in the middle of Hungary in the winter with the temperature being -8 degrees, it was incredibly cold. We were trying to marshal all the four cameras and then maintain unity with 300 extras on the battlefield. That was kind of crazy.”

"Every time you see all these shots, we feel like you’ve got thousands of men in the background. We were using very long lenses, cramming the frame as much as you can. And when we decided to shoot anamorphic lenses, they’re huge. They’re incredibly heavy."

The Last Kingdom is like “watching a documentary that’s been made in the Middle Ages”

The battle may have been the biggest challenge of the shoot, but Seven Kings Must Die still found time to explore the relationships between characters. After all, without Uhtred and his relationships and motivations, the story would fall flat.

“The fan base responds to [The Last Kingdom] really being rooted in historical accuracy,” Bryant said. “There are plenty of shows which are shot in a more contemporaneous fashion because they’re trying to reach contemporary audience. But they’re not about historical accuracy. Whereas I feel like what we’re doing with The Last Kingdom, you feel like you’re watching a documentary that’s been made in the Middle Ages. It’s great.”

To see Uhtred’s journey, stream The Last Kingdom series 1-5 and The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die on Netflix now.

Next. All 5 seasons of The Last Kingdom (and the movie), ranked worst to best. dark

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