Monday, January 28, 2008

Blindness (Pt 2)

continued from part 1 -More paraphrasing of Portuguese blog entries (thanks Felippe) from director Fernando Meirelles Blindness blog. If I'm interjecting an aside it's in red. The film, due out this August from Miramax, is an adaptation of Jose Saramago's classic novel of the same name.

Post 7 Meirelles says that César Charlone (the Oscar nominated cinematographer from City of God) had the idea of filming in Uruguay. The crew created an irrigation system to simulate rain for a scene in the movie. Meirelles could barely sleep the night before filming this scene he was so busy visualizing it. The morning came with cold and wet weather. He didn't want to torture cast and crew so they waited for the day to warm up a little. He shot the scene three times in a row and stopped because the actors were turning blue, but the scene turned out fine.

Post 8 Meirelles wanted to work with Gael Garcia Bernal (who plays "King of Ward 3") because he had heard that the actor adds a lot to his characters. In a scene as written, his character finds nail polish but, by instinct, decides not to wear it. But Gael decided that the character would wear the nail polisher -- Meirelles was afraid because he didn't want the character to look like a drag queen or the audience to think that they were watching Bad Education II (hey Meirelles, that's a sequel many of us would love to see!) so he asked Gael to find the nail polish accidentally. They shot and Gael based the whole scene around the nail polish. It turned out very funny, as if his character had smoked a joint or three, and was completely unaware of the pain he was causing to the other characters. FYI, the King of Ward 3 is an evil, evil character.

Post 9 The first official photo released (right) was of the "First Blind Man" played by Yusuke Iseya. Meirelles starts by describing a a shift that's happened from the book. In the movie the relationship between the "First Blind Man" and "The First Blind Man's Wife" (Yoshino Kimura) is very tense and they are introduced to the audience in the middle of argument. The selfish wife can't stay with her husband when he loses his sight. He said that their relationship is not like this in the book, but he saw an opportunity to create a good dramatic arc for those characters and the screenwriters know that a conflict is the best fuel to any story. The actors chosen to play these spouses became a couple during filming. Ahhh, nothing like working on an epic bummer to foster on-set romance.

This post is a good illustration (if you can read Portuguese that is) of how collaborative film making truly is. It details a long process of a scene creation involving the husband and wife sitting by a fire. Meirelles had his own ideas about the scene but he made changes to accommodate the actor's ideas (he wanted to incorporate a detail from his own personal relationship with the actress). They shifted the scene without informing the actress. The actress started crying during the scene. Meirelles said the scene was beautiful and touching even though he couldn't understand a single word of what Yusuke was saying (this scene is in Japanese). Yusuke concluded the scene on a romantically inquisitive note and the actress cuts him down, like a samurai drawing her sword (great analogy) with a harsh response. Meirelles then expands the scene so the audience can realize where they are --the fire is not from some romantic place but a pile of trash burning, killing the romantic atmosphere created by the unfocused imagination. The relationship goes downhill from there.

Later in the film, Meirelles struggled to find a simple way to reference the moment again without bordering on the cliche and again the actors help him find it. The director loves the moments in a story when the last piece of the puzzle is found, when a simple cut changes the meaning of a scene, when the movement of the camera has soul, or the music playing finds the right tone for the scene. These moments are alive and being surprised by them is the greatest pleasure of his particular job as a filmmaker. He likes to believe that these are the moments that connect the movie to the audience. He adds that 95% of these movie moments are lost somewhere from the "shooting of the film" to the "reaching the audience"-- he works hard for those 5%

a photo of Mark Ruffalo taken by the actress playing "The First Blind Man's Wife"

Post 10 The director lost the movie's script that he had written all of his notes on! This is not the first time. It also happened to Mr. Meirelles while shooting The Constant Gardener and City of God. Is the director playing Nathaniel in an unauthorized biopic? Cuz I lose everything daily...

Meirelles is sad that people don't understand the complexity of screenwriting. For example: Who tells the story? In the beginning of Blindness he is the one telling the story, presenting the character and the situations with his camera. In the second act ("quarantine") the story is told by the doctor's wife (Julianne Moore), it's through her eyes that the audience sees what's happening in the isolation period. Meirelles praises Moore here for her power to connect emotionally with audiences. Later in the film a new narrator is introduced: "Old man with eye patch" (Danny Glover). This character starts telling what's going on with the character, but unlike the doctor's wife, he tells what's happening in the character minds. In the third act doctor's wife and old man tell the story along with the director. This accumulation of voices is how the story will gain rhythm (momentum?)

There's a note of support for the writer's strike and the director wraps up the post sharing that Goodfellas (1990) is his "script bible". That classic also uses a shifting narrator.

more later...


Dame James said...

Thank you so much for posting this! Meirelles is one of my favorite directors around and reading all about this project has gotten me so excited that I can hardly contain it!

Anonymous said...

I wish you could read the whole thing.

Meirelles is a great writer and has a weird sense of humour. His notes about the filmmaking procces are also delightful.

I can't wait for this one!