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VENICE 2020 International Film Critics’ Week

Carlo S Hintermann • Director of The Book of Vision

“I wanted to blend auteur cinema with the craftsmanship of genre film”

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- VENICE 2020: We chatted with Carlo S Hintermann about his first fiction feature, The Book of Vision, produced by Terrence Malick

Carlo S Hintermann • Director of The Book of Vision
(© Settimana Internazionale della Critica)

In his debut, feature-length, fiction film The Book of Vision [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Carlo S Hintermann
film profile
]
, documentary-maker Carlo S Hintermann builds a bridge between the past and the present in a story melding science and emotions. The title is participating in Venice’s International Film Critics’ Week.

Cineuropa: You worked with Terrence Malick on your film and the two of you developed a special relationship. How did you convince him of the viability of your project?
Carlo S Hintermann: I’d already had a few conversations with him about it back when I was shooting The Tree of Life, he found the subject interesting. Malick is brave, both as a director and a producer. He’s motivated by unique films which need a production system to be built up around them. We assembled the same family that had worked on his other films: director of photography Joerg Widmer and set designer David Crank. It was an ambitious project which required professionals who were capable of bringing the imaginary world we’d devised to life. Malick pushed for the film to be as personal as possible, which is the opposite of many other producers who try to place your project within a wider perspective. He followed the film through its various stages, even the post-production ones, engaging in a very fruitful dialogue. He loves film, pure and simple, from auteur cinema through to genre works.

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As a documentary-maker, you’ve acquired a great deal of experience, from both a technical and creative point of view. How did the idea for the film - which is very original and complex for a first film - come to you,?
With regards to the various authors that I’ve worked with, and in all the documentaries I’ve made, I’ve always tried to use all of the expressive means available to filmmaking, whether animation or special effects. I’m fascinated by the technical side of film, I like to observe the director of photography at work, and special effects supervisors – I’m thinking of Dan Glass who, in addition to The Tree of Life, also worked on The Matrix and the Wachowski brothers’ films. But, on the other hand, I also love auteur films which have bent genre rules, Rivette, Raoul Ruiz, Assayas… In my first fiction film I wanted to mix these two different registers together, revisiting the particular craftsmanship of the Eighties fantasy films I grew up with, such as Labyrinth, The Goonies, Back To The Future. I wanted to start by pitting myself against all this.

Let’s talk about how you achieved your special effects. We see figures merging with trees and roots …
We worked hard on the sets to make sure we already had powerful special effects in front of the camera. Lorenzo Ceccotti, who’s a brilliant graphic artist and concept/visual designer, basically did what Hans Ruedi Giger did for Alien, that is creating an imaginary world, which we’d already previewed in board form. Then he and the set designer David Crank - who’s worked with Paul Thomas Anderson, as well as Malick - did some fantastic work together, comparing notes. There’s nothing harder than designing nature sets and integrating them with external elements. Crank and I worked with costume designer Mariano Tufano to create costumes which could interact with the film’s nature elements. And then, with the director of photography, we discussed the optics which could best amplify this elongation effect. Through a combination of lenses, camera movements and set design, we worked towards achieving the desired visual effect. And finally, using CG, we developed a level of interaction which was, at times, quite sophisticated, using proxy models which we’d developed and printed in 3D. It’s a process that still requires a lot of craftsmanship, even when there are computer enhancements involved.

How did you choose the international cast - Charles Dance, Lotte Verbeek, Sverrir Gudnason, Isolda Dychauk?
I worked hard on the cast. Charles Dance was just the actor I wanted, I waited while he took breaks, I postponed filming because he was shooting Godzilla! There’s his theatre legacy, years spent in the Royal Shakespeare Company… he’s a very technically sophisticated actor. He’s always used for the same roles; I wanted to draw a gentler side out of him, a desperation that I knew he could express. Sverrir Gudnason has a face that expresses gentleness, but it can also show quite the opposite. I’d been struck by the Swedish films he’d made before Borg McEnroe [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
and by his theatre experience. Lotte was interesting for having made a film like Nothing Personal [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Urszula Antoniak
interview: Urszula Antoniak
film profile
]
for which she’d won various awards, and then for Borgia, which meant she already had experience in “journeys through time”! As for Isolda, when I saw Aleksandr Sokurov’s Faust I thought she was so iconic that I told myself I wanted to make a film with her one day.

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(Translated from Italian)

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