Robby Müller

Robby Müller at IFFR

Although born in Curaçao, Robby MÜLLER (1940-2018, Netherlands) spent his childhood in Indonesia and moved to Amsterdam at the age of 13. From 1962 to 1964, Müller studied cinematography and editing at the Dutch Film Academy, with notable classmates such as Frans Bromet, Jan de Bont and Pim de la Parra. As a camera assistant to cinematographer Gerard Vandenberg, Müller moved to West Germany and met Wim Wenders. In 1969, Müller shot Wenders’ film-school short Alabama (2000 Light Years). In the following decades, the iconic duo made the most important films of Wenders’ oeuvre, rediscovering the Americana aesthetic of neon, motels and sandy landscapes.

Müller found his second kindred spirit in Jim Jarmusch with Down by Law (1986). Müller taught Jarmusch to film without storyboards, to decide on the spot how a scene should be framed. With Jarmusch, Müller discovered how light could move: endless tracking shots predominate in films such as Mystery Train (1989) and Dead Man (1995). Müller exchanged analogue for digital with Lars von Trier, showing his technical inventiveness in Breaking the Waves (1996) and Dancer in the Dark (2000).

Due to vascular dementia, Müller was forced to prematurely quit making films around 2004. Despite losing his ability to speak, he was still occasionally interviewed and visited by filmmaker friends in his hometown of Amsterdam, helped by his wife and carer Andrea Müller-Schirmer. When British director Steve McQueen asked about the secret behind his phenomenal cinematography, Müller told him that you should film like a cat jumps on a table: with just enough effort. Nothing more, nothing less.


(director of photography) Toets (1968, short), Alabama (2000 Light Years) (1969, short), Jonathan (1970), Pakbo (1970, TV), Der Fall Lena Christ (1970, TV), Eine Rose für Jane (1970, TV), Summer in the City (1971), Carlos (1971, TV), Overload (1972), Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter/The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty (1972), Marie (1972, TV), Can (1972, doc), Der scharlachrote Buchstabe/The Scarlet Letter (1973), Die Reise nach Wien/Trip to Vienna (1973), Die Eltern (1974, TV), Alice in den Städten/Alice in the Cities (1974), Ein bißchen Liebe (1974), Perahim – Die zweite Chance (1974), Wandas Paradies (1975, TV), Falsche Bewegung/The Wrong Move (1975), Das Double (1975, TV), Die Herausforderung (1975, TV), Es herrscht Ruhe im Land (1976), Im Lauf der Zeit/Kings of the Road (1976), Die Wildente/The Wild Duck, Der amerikanische Freund/The American Friend (1977), Die gläserne Zelle/The Glass Cell (1978), Die linkshändige Frau/The Left-Handed Woman (1978), Mysteries (1978), Das Ende einer Karriere (1987, TV), Saint Jack (1979), Opname/ In for Treatment (1979), Hallo medemens (1980, TV), Honeysuckle Rose (1980), They All Laughed (1981), Een zwoele zomeravond/A Hot Summer Night (1982), Un dimanche de flic/A Cops' Sunday (1983), Klassen Feind/Class Enemy (1983), Les îles/The Islands (1983), Tricheurs/Cheaters (1984), Repo Man (1984), Paris, Texas (1984), Body Rock (1984), Finnegan Begin Again (1985, TV), To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), The Longshot (1986), Down by Law (1986), Barfly (1987), The Believers (1987), Il piccolo diavolo/The Little Devil (1988), Mystery Train (1989), Aufzeichnungen zu Kleidern und Städten/Notebook on Cities and Clothes (1989), Coffee and Cigarettes II (1989, short), Korczak (1990), Red Hot and Blue (1990, TV), Bis ans Ende der Welt/Until the End of the World (1991), Mad Dog and Glory (1993), When Pigs Fly (1993), Hoogste tijd/Last Call (1995), Dead Man (1995), Al di là delle nuvole/Beyond the Clouds (1995, segment), Breaking the Waves (1996), The Tango Lesson (1997), Shattered Image (1998), Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), Dancer in the Dark (2000), My Brother Tom (2001), 24 Hour Party People (2002), Carib's Leap (2002, short doc), Poem – Ich setzte den Fuß in die Luft und sie trug/Poem – I Set My Foot Upon the Air and It Carried Me (2003, segment), Coffee and Cigarettes (2003, segment), Visions of Europe (2004, segment), Nach grauen Tagen (2004, short), Ashes (2014, short), Living the Light – Robby Müller (2018, doc)

Robby Müller at IFFR

The films by this director at IFFR