In 1846 New York, young Amsterdam watches as his father “Priest” Vallon, who leads the Irish gang in the Five Points slum, is murdered in cold blood. Sixteen years later, he returns seeking revenge on Bill “The Butcher”, who heads up the “Natives” gang of the US-born. Amsterdam fails to slip incognito into the nativist gang, so he openly takes up a position as the leader of the “Irish” and rekindles the battle between the two groups … Gangs of New York is the most spectacular and costly film in Michael Ballhaus’ career. The shoot at Rome’s Cinecittà studios lasted more than seven months, with the cinematographer’s work giving the film the appropriate aura of a 19th century “old masters” painting. A key contributor to the successful chiaroscuro effect was the use of natural light, including candles, torches and bonfires. But Ballhaus also availed himself of the latest in film techniques – extremely high-speed film stock, a lot of Steadicam and the “flying eye” of a cable cam, an unmanned camera running on wires across the set. Ballhaus has called Gangs of New York the quintessence of his work, both in content and form. The film brought the cinematographer his third Oscar nomination.