Tuesday, September 2, 2014

LUNA: 5 Question Interview with Director Dave McKean

Dave McKean works in many mediums--comics (most famously his covers for The Sandman); illustration; painting; collage, music, photography and film. Aside from his previous feature film, MirrorMask (2005), McKean has directed two shorts, N[eon] (2002) and The Week Before (1998). He directed the film adaptation of the National Theatre Wales' The Gospel Of Us (2012). He's done design for Harry Potter And The Wizard Of Azkaban (2004) and the titles for Neverwhere (1996). Now he brings Luna to TIFF.  McKean was kind enough to answer a few questions. ~ Carol Borden

Where some of your other films are quite stylized and, in the case of The Week Before, almost expressionist, Luna combines fantastic, expressionist and animated elements with more naturalistic ones. What are some of the challenges in blending the fantastic with the naturalistic?

I think it's easier to sustain a very stylized form of storytelling for a short film. I like stories that exist both in the naturalistic world and in our imaginative lives, films are so immersive in that sense, we can explore how our characters think and dream, as well as how they exist in the real world. I think it's very easy to just go down the rabbit hole, or through the door to Narnia or Oz. I'm interested in the parallel narrative of our fantasy lives, or as Dean puts in it Luna, our imaginative lives. How the moment of 'now' that is palpably real, is surrounded by our memories, our dreams and hopes, the stories and connections that our brains make as we navigate the world--a universe of fantasy, or unreality, or surreality. I'm keen to explore this very human experience, how our minds create our own realities--a blend of fact and interpretation of fact.

What do you think fantasy, surrealism and magical realism's strengths are in reflecting and understanding people's lives?

They function like a lens I think. They allow us to see our everyday joys, fears, dramas, tragedies, triumphs in terms or story, or even poetry. Our brains tend to join the dots, make connections. We create dramatic arcs by seeing the relationship between things, but this is our brains creating stories. So these associative images magnify and intensify our experience of the world. They create meaning.

As someone who's worked with illustration, painting, collage and photography, what are some of the differences for you in working with a moving medium rather than a static one?

In some ways they are very similar. I'm always thinking about story, and the development of ideas or images, so with all of these media, I'm simply trying to communicate the feelings and ideas in the story or characters in the most appropriate and effective way. Film gives me live actors, editing, music, sound, a huge and powerful toolbox to play with. If there is a problem for me, it is that film gives me too much. There is less room for the audience to add their side of the conversation. The reason I love comics is that they DON'T move, and there is NO sound. As a creator I have to evoke those elements in the drawings and writing, and the reader has to create those elements in their own minds. Reading a good comic is a creative act. Watching a film is often a more passive experience, and since I'm interested in engaging that conversational aspect of creativity, I'm trying to find ways of achieving that in my films.

McKean working on the set of Luna

Does your illustration, collage and painting inform your filmmaking, and, if so, could you share how it does?

They all talk to each other. Sometimes the things I learn making paintings or drawings--composition, colour, expressionism, texture--can directly influence the making of a film. Sometimes it's great that they are different, and simply taking a break from one medium to spend time with another, recharges the batteries and I feel refreshed.

Who are some of your favorite filmmakers and how have they influenced you?

So many--there are so many extraordinarily creative and brilliant technicians and actors working in the field. The filmmakers I really love are the ones that let me look through their eyes for a while. they have an aesthetic and social point of view. And there have been so many of these. I love the silent era because you can see the rules being written, the grammar of film being created. Murnau, Dreyer and Sjöström I love, as well as many of the Ufa films created in the 20's. Most of my films (all of them?) are in some way love letters to the silent era. I love directors and animators who take complete control of their film world; Svankmajer, Trnka, the Quays, Maddin, Lynch, Fellini. I love the great masters of time and landscape--Tarkovsky, Angelopoulos, Sokurov, Lopushansky. I remain a huge Woody Allen fan, despite the rough years. I love the group of truly modern filmmakers who have really got to grips with the digital realm; Jonze, Gondry, Glazer, Taymor. And I love Lars von Trier--he is, and I never use this word, a genius. I could go on for hours. Oh, and Bob Fosse--my favourite film is All That Jazz. Oh, and Michael Powell.

Okay, that will do.

LUNA screening times:
Sat., Sept. 6, The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema 6:30 PM
Mon., Sept. 8, AGO Jackman Hall 9:00 AM
Sun., Sept. 14, Scotiabank 9 8:45 PM

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