2020-08-01 17:44:07[UPDATES]

MASTER CLASS | Denis Villeneuve: Seeking Intuition and Poetry in Film Dunes

Denis Villeneuve 

Today, Denis Villeneuve, a French Canadian director who has been active in the topic list recently for directing the science fiction film Dune (tentative translation) adapted from Frank Herbert's novel, was invited to the MASTER CLASS of the Shanghai International Film Festival. In his early years, Villeneuve made himself known by the people and won honors with the works of Maelstrom, Polytechnique, and INCENDIES. Among them, INCENDIES was shortlisted for the best foreign language film at the 83rd Oscars. In 2013, Denis began working with the Hollywood film industry, shifting from French to English. Since then, his works such as Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049 have been shortlisted in Cannes, Venice, Oscar and other major film festivals, making him one of the hottest directors in Hollywood. During the outbreak, Villeneuve, in his hometown in Quebec, devoted every effort to the remote post production of new films together with his staff all over the world. On the eve of leaving for Jordan to reshot the Dune (tentative translation), Villeneuve accepted the invitation from MASTER CLASS of the Shanghai International Film Festival to share his thoughts on film creation over the past 20 years with Chinese audiences. In the one hour communication, he revealed his childhood story of resisting fear and anxiety with movies, which had never been made public before. When talked about the director he adored, he was just as excited as seeing the blue eyed man on the cover of Dune when he was 13 years old. He seems to be the protagonist Paul in Herbert's works. He embraces the complicated world humbly, captures the beautiful and rich new culture, and rises up to the challenges again and again. 

The Masterclass was presented on the following platforms on the evening of August 1: Central Video, Wenhui APP, Migu, Youku, BesTV, Tencent, microblog, and Himalaya. 

Feel humble in front of nature 

The cover of Dune Section I 

If you've watched the works of Villeneuve made in Quebec or early in the United States, you'll find that his sci-fi films in recent years are quite different from those. However, sci-fi films have been Villeneuve's devotion since childhood to this day. At the age of 13, he and his friends painted storyboards with characters and sand worms from the novel Dune. The endless desert depicted in the story inspired Villeneuve to accumulate experience in large-scale production, so as to visualize the grand world structure in the book one day. The desert was also internalized into Villeneuve's subconscious, which was shown in most of his films: the open scene, the rich color expression, the inner emotion aroused by nature, and the human soul impacted by the landscape. This novel makes Villeneuve feel that "as the character goes deeper into the desert, we go deeper into his heart". Every time Villeneuve explored the depths of human nature, he entered the deep desert, where he finally found the starting place of his dream and a new direction. 

This also made Villeneuve feel close to two Quebec documentary directors, Pierre Perrault and Michel Brault, whenever he picked up the camera: "Today, like them, I feel humble in front of nature. I'm willing to embrace the nature, and feel the poetry of it. There's an emotion in their films that I'm still trying to maintain." 

Truth is the food reserve for creativity 

Villeneuve and Deakins on the site 
Another thing talked a lot about Villeneuve is his long-term cooperation with photographer Roger Deakins. He said, "Deakins's photography idea is to take pictures as natural as possible. He's really good at using light and shadow, but he's also great at narrative." Deakins and Villeneuve, who tries to put the science fiction scene into the real environment, have similar visual and narrative concepts. Both of them pursue to create authenticity with extraordinary light and shadow design, so that the audience can subconsciously identify with the images in front of them. Then they create a sense of suspense, mystery or oppression with dreamlike paragraphs and blank-leaving in narration, thus building a human maze that seems both real and illusory. Villeneuve worked with Deakins, like learning from a master in school, and Deakins said: "Denis's films are exactly the kind of works that attracted me into the film industry." 

Villeneuve is reluctant to make science fiction films in front of the green screen and his major reason for this is the actors. "After all, lines and actors are the soul of films, and in order to release the soul to the greatest extent, you need to motivate the actors. I think a lot of 'real' elements are very important to motivate actors. Villeneuve highlights natural performance, and the real scenes are the creative spaces he creates for the actors. This is also the most important reason why Zhang Zhen was selected for Dune. "He caught my attention since I watched the films by Karwai Wong in the 1990s. He is one of my favorite actors. I've seen him in many movies and was deeply moved by his natural performance. " 

It is not difficult to understand how much Villeneuve cherishes and appreciates excellent actors and how much he values performance in a film if you have seen his joy and devotion when taking about his cooperating with actors. 

This science fiction film brings together a group of outstanding performers such as Timothée Chalamet and Josh James Brolin, and villeneuver modestly owed this to the charm of this science fiction legend. But when it comes to how to guide actors, he clearly has his mature and unique system. It's better to finish the logical and analytical works in the preparation stage before shooting. In this process, the characters and dialogues are ready to be adjusted according to the actors' better extemporaneous ideas and performance. On the filming site, the key word is "visualizing", and he will guide the actors to experience emotional changes instead of giving rational performance instructions. 

Intuition and poetry 

Stage photo of Zhang Zhen in film Dune (tentative translation) 
Representative works: A Brighter Summer Day, The Grandmaster and so on 

Villeneuve can express his methodology and aesthetic thinking clearly. However, in this Masterclass, what impressed the audience most was his perceptual knowledge about "intuition" and "poetry". 

When asked what is the most important element of a good film, Villeneuve replied: poetry. "Why do the audience go to the cinema? To find something touching in the poetic images. During a talk with others, some scenes of a film may spontaneously appear in your mind when it is mentioned. Those scenes deeply rooted in your mind for some reason touch your heart. They have a deeper meaning, which is carefully planned by the production team when shooting the film. The design elements create an intangible meaning, which is ineffable. That is the poetic beauty of a film." 



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