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Pierre Földes • Director of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

"What interested me was to talk about mysterious things, which already opens a door to the supernatural"


- The director talks about his animated feature film adapted from Haruki Murakami, awarded in Annecy and in Competition at Les Arcs Film Festival

Pierre Földes • Director of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
(© Maëva Benaiche/Les Arcs Film Festival)

Winner of a Special Mention in Annecy and selected in Toronto, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman [+see also:
film review
interview: Pierre Földes
film profile
, the feature debut from Pierre Földes, is an animated adaptation of several short stories from celebrated Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. We met the filmmaker during the 14th edition of Les Arcs Film Festival, where his film is playing in Competition.

Cineuropa: Where did the idea for an animated adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s particular literary style come from, and how did you proceed writing the script?
Pierre Földes: I was making live-action and animated short films, mixing the techniques together, and an agent asked me what I’d like to do next. I told him: I’d like to adapt Murakami into an animated feature film. We made contact and Haruki Murakami suggested I adapt one or several of his short stories, whichever ones I wanted. I chose six, those that inspired me the most, but without really knowing what I was going to do. On the contrary, the more mysterious it was and the less I knew what I could do with it, the more this interested me, because I could feel that this was touching on something more profound, without knowing exactly what it was. Rather than take a simple story that goes from A to Z and which awakened nothing in me, I therefore instead launched myself into that. At the beginning, I was thinking of several stories that would follow one another, then eventually, at the end of a long writing process working with such inspiring material — written so well and in a style so innovative, which awakens creativity — I told myself that like in Murakami’s work, there is a specific kind of character, and that one character could in fact exist in several stories. We are simply looking at this character from different angles. 

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What about the mix of the supernatural and the everyday? 
What interested me was to talk about mysterious things, which already opens a door to the supernatural. I am most attracted to shadowy areas, like in the films of David Lynch for example. The characters in my film are very ordinary human beings and everything appears to be rather banal, but we all live with unsaid elements that lead us this way and that, and sometimes it is interesting to look at them a little more closely, to open the windows.

What animation technique did you go for?
I call it live animation. There is a part of live-action filming with actors, but it isn’t just capture. It serves as a reference to unify, centralise a character. Otherwise, 15 artists animate the same character and have their own interpretation, and the way the character raises an eyebrow will be different from one artist to the other, for example. Moreover, in 2D and 3D animation, there are practices that favour round shapes, flexibility, and acceleration and which are different from those in live-action filming, where the movements are much more abrupt, and that is what I wanted. But the characters do not look at all like the actors, they have a similar but not identical morphology, and every time there is a work of adaptation at the drawing stage. It is a work of transposition of movements and emotions. All that we see from the actor, we recreate it for the character.

What were your main intentions in terms of directing?
After writing the script, I started working on the storyboard, but it was more like a cinema storyboard than an animation storyboard, because I composed my shots with one drawing per shot. Then, at the editing stage, we placed this storyboard in the viewfinder of the camera — it was transparent — and we could then place the actors and the furniture according to that. This worked perfectly and in the end, the film is very similar to the storyboard. 

How did you work on the colours?
I wanted a line art background, white with black pencil, that renders all the brightness of the scene, but also all its volumes. The colours, which are transparent, are applied on top,  there is no colour gradient at all. In animation, I love flat designs. The number of colours is also limited, I was quite strict about that. And whenever we had a very dark background or character, I still wanted to maintain some line-drawing element, as it is done in comic books, which allows us to see volumes while staying in 2D. The same goes for the transparency, which is for me a way to let the viewer enter the image. It gives the image greater porosity.

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(Translated from French)

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