Kristina Buožytė and Bruno Samper • Directors of Vesper
“We’re the audience, too, after all”
- We sat down with the helmers of this ambitious European sci-fi co-production, a visually astonishing tale set in a dystopian world where the Earth’s ecosystem has collapsed
After Vesper [+see also:
interview: Kristina Buožytė and Bruno …
film profile] premiered in the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival’s main competition, we met up with Kristina Buožytė and Bruno Samper. The directorial duo spoke about this ambitious sci-fi project, a co-production between Lithuania, France and Belgium telling the story of the titular 13-year-old girl (Raffiella Chapman), who uses her survival skills to subsist in the remnants of a collapsing, dystopian world with her ailing father, Darius (Richard Brake).
Cineuropa: When and how did you start envisioning the post-apocalyptic world of Vesper?
Bruno Samper: We had been working on the themes of synthetic biology and genetics for many years, even before Vesper. We were trying to develop several other projects after Vanishing Waves [+see also:
interview: Kristina Buozyte
film profile] , and many of these didn’t happen, for various reasons. We decided to come back to our roots and make a movie in Lithuania, in order to take advantage of its strong assets and to optimise the production value. I’m French [Buožytė is Lithuanian], but each time I’ve been to Lithuania, I’ve been totally amazed by this kind of fairy-tale mood that the country has. You feel like you’re in a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. [...] “Let’s try to shoot it here,” we said. Little by little, we put our themes together and started to build up the story. We began working on it about six years ago, and things sped up over the last two years.
Kristina Buožytė: We wanted to make a fairy tale – a dark one, but one with an uplifting message. The main idea was that even in the darkness, there’s always hope.
Somehow, the movie has inherited different qualities, tropes and stylistic choices from many modern sci-fi works, but you manage to put them together in a unique, novel fashion. What were your main artistic references?
BS: We had many of them. We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel; we wanted to craft a tale and work with archetypes – Jonas [the antagonist played by Eddie Marsan] is the typical ogre, for example. We aimed to work with this type of simplicity and make something universal. We wanted to focus on the originality of the world, instead. One of our references was, for example, Roland Topor’s Fantastic Planet (1973), but we had many ideas from other films and documentaries, as well as design, architecture, comics and paintings...
KB: It’s never just about movies.
How did you instruct your DoP and production designer while crafting this disturbing vision of the future?
KB: For many years, Bruno has been collecting a large set of “organic” visuals and references. Even before working with our production designer and concept artist, we put together a “bible” deck with sources of inspiration. Then we started collaborating with a talented Lithuanian concept artist, Vilius Patrauskas. It was very fruitful, and we laid the foundations for creating this world.
BS: In Europe, it’s not that common to work with the concept artist to define the visual aspect of the movie beforehand. That was our blueprint, which we could use to communicate with the DoP and production designer later on. [...] The key word was “organic”. We wanted [the audience] to feel the matter, to stimulate all five of their senses through the picture. For the same reasons, with Feliksas Abrukauskas [the DoP], we shared Dutch painters such as Vermeer and Rembrandt as key references for how to light the environments.
Raffiella Chapman as Vesper shows great charisma, and her performance bodes well for the future. How did you choose her?
KB: When Bruno first saw Raffiella on video, he said: “I dreamt of Vesper like that!” She’s very determined, brave and a fast learner ready to try out new things. We were very happy to work with her.
BS: She possesses the same qualities as her character. She has Vesper’s determination and strength along with some fragility and sensitivity. That’s how we imagined Vesper.
What about casting Richard Brake, Rosy McEwen and Eddie Marsan for their respective roles?
KB: When we saw Rosy, she blew our mind. She’s so talented: she can be whoever, and she’s the perfect “instrument”. It was a pleasure working with her. Richard usually plays the role of the “bad guy”, but here, he had a totally different character to portray. After wrapping filming, Richard said he hadn’t expected his part to be so hard. He had no means to express himself except his eyes [Darius is paralysed]. So there’s nowhere to hide – you just need to be in the “here and now” and function. It was very challenging. And... Eddie is Eddie [laughs]!
BS: Each time we watched his rushes, we discovered new nuances, things we hadn’t noticed while filming. While working on the editing, we were amazed. We’re the audience too, after all.
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