To film the past, tap the future
One of the lovely ironies of Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" is that to accurately capture the look and feel of 18th-century Europe, the director turned to futuristic technology created for NASA. To film scenes illuminated only by candlelight, Kubrick relied on the German company Zeiss, which had recently built a special ultra-fast 50mm lens for NASA's use in satellite photography. Upon discovering the firm still had six of the 25 lenses made, Kubrick purchased one and, with creative engineering help from Ed Di Guilio of Cinema Products Inc., attached it to his faithful 35mm Mitchell Blimped Noiseless Camera. Since the f/0.7 Zeiss lens was twice as fast as any other lens, Kubrick could now film by candlelight alone. Since the lens had almost zero depth of field, the beautifully atmospheric candlelit scenes required precise staging to maintain focus.