A “phone call, a mysterious note, a bouquet of peonies and the scenic city of Venice…” This is the atmosphere of Boldizsár’s The Painting, a fashion film collaboration with Vogue Italia starring Elisa Sednaoui Dellal and Tory’s tapestry print from Fall 2015. I spoke with him about his first grand fashion film debut, the creative process and the love for film. Continue reading for an exclusive sneak-peek into the brainstorm and storyboard process.
1. In your bio you say that you see your filmmaking as a way of life rather than as a career, and that a strong individual style and visual look as well as control throughout the creative process is important. How would you describe your affection with the film medium and the type of films that you make, what draws you to film as a medium instead of another (like photography)?
I see film as the most complex medium of all. There is still a lot to explore with film, not even mentioning additional technologies like virtual reality or 3D holograms. I think film is the perfect medium to share something from our inner imagination, or maybe even more than that. The viewers all add something to the film with their own individual experiences in life. I actually struggled in the past, seeing film as an anti-democratic thing that reflects a single person’s vision. As I got older and gained more experience, I came to see it as a positive thing. In fact, there are many exciting things in the process of filmmaking that alter and enrich a single person’s vision. The creative process is so rich, that as a career it simply eats up one’s life.
The way I see films is very close to dreams. For me dreaming is like being high, having no doubts, everything seems very exciting. I think a good film should be like that: you don’t want to stop being in that world. It actually took me a long time to commit to the film medium, as I miss the”live” part in the process like you would have, for example, with music, where every performance is different. The types of films I make also change over time. I started with more experimental films, dance films and naturally moved into doing music videos and eventually fashion films. I love music and I find sound very important when creating a specific atmosphere or mood in film. Different sounds or music can really alter the image we see, even if the same imagery is used. In sum, what draws me to film is to share my personal mood and vision. Since life is so fragmented, I think when someone can tell his/her story in an interesting way, and in the best examples can create a whole universe others can also relate to, in my opinion film can be a good cure to the sometimes unsatisfying reality and that’s how I compare it to a dream.
2. We’re currently in an exciting period in time where the fashion film as a new medium was just born, and is now in its infancy, growing and developing itself. How do you think that this new genre is questioning or changing the way we perceive and think about both fashion on the one hand, and film on the other? How do you see your fashion films changing the landscape of fashion and film?
Fashion film is indeed a very exciting new genre. The best fashion films are the ones we don’t feel like watching for consumer products, but simply for the joy of watching. In fact, clothes, style and attitude are very important in any film, but I think especially “youth” films like The Outsiders, or many more like Badlands, any Fassbinder or Cocteau film. These films use fashion to support the idea of the story. But in fashion films it is the opposite: the film is created to enrich the experience of the brand and to communicate its philosophy. I think we’re now at a stage where no one knows yet what fashion film really is about, partly because the moving image is so rich. You can do so much with time-based media compared to still images. I love photography for being able to give a really strong impression or even a story, but I think it is more limited than film and simply less rich for storytelling since there is also no sound. But the fashion film genre is definitely influenced by the fashion photographer’s mentality, which is good as it shakes up the narrative filmmaker’s way of thinking, possibly reforming or redefining film language. And of course the social media aspect here reforms film as a whole. Fashion is setting its own rules in film.
3. In October last year you got to make a film for Vogue Italia in collaboration with fashion designer Tory Burch, “The Painting.” What inspired you to make this film, and how was it for you to work together with some big names in the fashion industry regarding the creative process?
It was really a dream project. I was asked to write a story involving Elisa, and it had to be in Venice since she’s the host of the Venice Biennale and it was a good opportunity to shoot while she was there. I started with Venice & Elisa as my inspiration. My idea was a brief re-encounter with the city after a long time, a reconnection with the past. A memory of a relationship back in the present as she receives a letter and goes to find a surprise somewhere exciting. An artist studio as her “friend” or ex-lover was an artist, thinking he will be there. But all she finds is a painting, which is in fact a magical mirror.
The process was great, especially after the storyboard got accepted. This was the first time I did a lot of image research, going to Venice, taking pictures and using my own drawings too. Once the idea got accepted it became even more dreamy as I went to Venice picking the locations (I had to choose between 15 palaces available) and finding an amazing DOP [cinematographer]. I chose Marcell Rév because of his amazing work and knowing he shot feature films so he would be very quick as we only had 5 hours to shoot. The whole process was quite an adrenalin boost as failing was not accepted. The hardest part was finishing quick, as in Venice you can only travel by boat so we needed to have a strong plan of how to do everything. Directing was the easiest part since Elisa is so talented and the role was fitting her perfectly. I knew exactly what I wanted and it took only 2-3 takes as she behaves perfectly in front of the camera. I only started working out the music after we shot the film. I gave some reference music to the composer Leon Jean-Marie, and we built up the soundtrack based on two existing but very different songs. I think this film is probably my best so far. I based the story board on timeless and amazing films, building on different movie characters who hadn’t necessarily main roles in other films (and aren’t necessarily female either).
Working with big names of course can be hard, but once you are in the production phase everyone is on your side and helps to make it happen. I was a bit worried about directing Elisa without formerly meeting her, and just because of the fact that she’s famous and played in feature films with Vincent Gallo before, but she was very lovely and easy to work with from the first minute. The good thing with working digital is that I can show the team some shots, and if they are blown away by what they see they usually calm down as well. But with film, compared to stills, it is harder for the rest of the team to see the total package since the editing process is still a great mystery for many. With stills they can straight away comment the shots, but the moving image is different.
4. “The Painting” has quite an unusual use of music that is kind of unsettling and thriller-like, whilst the visual aesthetics are dreamy and poetic-like, creating a beautiful interplay between visuals and sound. Then the woman, Elisa, reveals “the painting” and sees her own moving image in the mirror, touching her liquid self-refection. The spectator of the film is, in a way, also seeing a reflection of him/herself through the emotional response that is created inside of him/her. How do you see this emotional dialogue between the spectator and your films, what feeling or vision do you wish to communicate?
I like the tension between music and imagery. Of course it being an “advertorial” it had to fit the brand’s image and Vogue Italia just as much as my vision. I love erotic thrillers like Dario Argento, Brian De Palma and Hitchcock, David Lynch and of course Roman Polanski, who inspired the sountrack with Rosemary’s Baby opening sequences. I like it when the visuals and sound are a bit out of sync, and I also wanted to express Elisa’s inner mood when being in that “head-space” visiting a place she hadn’t been for a long time. I almost wanted to create a slight feel of craziness or heightened emotional state that she might be in. I thought about using her voiceover as we hear her fragmented thoughts, but I decided to focus on music alone to make it more powerful. For me, the mystery of the mirror and seeing our own image is always fascinating as we tend to see ourselves differently as others see us. It’s not a secret that the film and that moment was a reference to Jean Cocteau’s Orphée which is one of my favorite films. But in short, what I wanted to communicate is that magic can happen if we are open to it. Also to celebrate the belief that life is more than just a practical things and is full of mystery.
5. What’s next?
I learned a lot from this experience, and I really want to focus on writing and directing more. It’s very hard to maintain a team in London though since it is so fast paced, making it difficult for me to create as much as I would like to. At the same time, the city is very inspiring and full of culture. I feel impatient to be directing more, but film is really the hardest medium so I need to be patient. I’m very lucky to be part of the Katy Barker agency that made this film possible, and we have really big plans! Nothing is certain yet, but I want to carry on directing films and make personal work besides commercial too. I still need to learn a lot, but I think that is natural.
Click here for more behind-the-scenes photos of Tory Burch.