Reel People

Alfonso Cuar�n, Filmmaker

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 3, 2007

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Deserves props for: Directing the dystopian Children of Men--opening this week--Y Tu Mam� Tambi�n and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. He's also adapting Nicole Krauss' The History of Love.

How did you want to distinguish Children of Men from other futuristic films?

"I didn't want to make it futuristic. For me, it was about the state of things today. At the beginning the art department came to us with all these concept designs. They showed me all these cars and buildings and gadgets. And I said, 'No, I don't want to create. I don't want to fantasize. I don't want to be imaginative. I just want to reference what already exists.' Also, it's a chase movie more than a science-fiction film. I think it has more to do with The Sugarland Express than Blade Runner."

Did you view the film as a warning?

"No, I didn't see it as a cautionary tale, because I don't believe we have time for caution. I think part of the problem is we're living in dystopian times. And the scary thing is how slowly we're starting to accept it. I hope the film becomes another platform to discuss, not to stay passive and complacent about a world that's gaining on us."

How long did it take to shoot the long-takes?

"With the last one [set in a war zone], we spent 12 days putting it together. On the 13th day we gave it two tries. We couldn't even go as far as halfway through. And every time you reset, it's a huge reset, because it's special effects and blood and makeup and all that stuff. We were going to lose the location, so we had only one more day to do it. At that point it's impossible to say, 'Let's break it up.' But just before the sun set, we tried one more time. I was terrified. But it happened. It was just one of those things."

What was the aesthetic reasoning behind the long-takes?

"[Cinematographer Emmanuel] Lubezki and I decided we weren't going to use editing and montage for an effect. So the theory was to create a moment of truthfulness with the actors and the elements, and the camera is just there to register that moment. It had to do with the idea of keeping you in the present, not taking you into a world far, far away."

Were you worried these shots, which are undeniably agile, would distract from what's going on in them?

"It's not about forcing it to be long. It's about seeing what's necessary for the scene in terms of truthfulness. If we felt the take was calling for attention, that's the moment we need to cut. And we did that several times. We cut because we felt the shot was calling attention to itself."

That pig balloon is supposed to be a reference to Pink Floyd's Animals, right?

"Yeah. And if you see that shot, you see the chimney, just like the cover. It didn't make much sense, but it felt right."

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