Saturday, July 11, 2009

Production notes from Moze

Recently, Moze shared with me some thoughts on the development of his film. I have posted them here alongside some images taken by Nureyev Continuity supervisor, Ramona Diaconscu.

Moze writes:One of the things I'm asked most often is why a film about Nureyev? It's a good question but I was often stumped for an answer as I had never rationalized or verbalized why I was drawn to the subject. When I pursue an idea for a film it's quite often an entirely instinctual endeavour and I don't discover the reasons until much later - like when people ask me! But in thinking now about the whole realm of what I know, read, watched, heard and discovered about Nureyev, there was one common idea: He was an individual who simply refused to do what he was told. His desire to express himself as an artist was so strong that he sacrificed a big part of his life, namely his country, family and heritage, to realize those ambitions. As one of my characters in the film says: "He was a stranger from the day he was born to the day he left. Only an outsider leaves a place that was never theirs to begin with." And it was this sense of a man fighting for his own truth that eventually shaped a script for this film.

However, I also knew that I did not want to make a film about Nureyev dancing. There are countless wonderful documentaries already available that reveal Nureyev in all his performance glory with details of his life revealed through documentary, archival and home movie footage. What I wanted to do instead was to create a film where the mythology that he created, including his own psychology as well as the iconography of his life, is revealed almost entirely through dance. For a subject whose life was deeply embedded within dance, there has never been a film where the nuances of his life have been explored in choreography especially created for film. This film is the first-ever response to that challenge, creating a film that is created primarily through dance and dramatized personal memory.

These dramatized personal memories are an integral part of the film and form links to the ongoing story revealed through the choreography. Rather than imagine "experts" or characters who had deep personal connections to the main subject, I opted instead for fictitious figures who may've had the most fleeting of exchanges with Nureyev, like ships that pass in the night. These characters are a KGB officer, a flight attendant, an avid fan, a one-night stand, an arts critic and a former Russian classmate. Though these figures are entirely made up, they shed light on the realities of his time as well as the darker areas of his personal life seldom explored.

These ideas eventually had to be brought together under a production design which would accommodate the limitations of a tight budget. As such, the film is presented on a single sound stage consisting of a large dance floor laid out before a huge screen which projects an array of vivid colours and images in following the narrative of the Nureyev's life. The narrative itself is embodied entirely by the choreography, music and the characters portrayed by an enormously talented cast featuring Greta Hodgkinson, Etienne Lavigne, Tyler Robinson, Robert Glumbek, Allen Kaeja and Sarah Robichaud, amongst many others. However, as much as there is a "live" sense to the proceedings, I also wanted to bring in elements that are uniquely cinematic, namely, the elements of memory and thought, such as flashbacks, flashforwards and inner thinking. In effect, the film is a sort of hybrid between a live concert and a memory film, creating the immediacy of a theatrical experience but also allowing for expressive effects only possible through cinematography, editing and montage.

I am indebted to a truly remarkable cast and creative team in attempting to realize this project. We were all working under very tight circumstances given our resources; and yet, in many ways we've managed to make the footage look quite rich and dynamic. Big thanks must also go to Phil Strong and Laurel MacDonald for their extraordinarily beautiful score which inspired us all during rehearsals and shooting. What they have accomplished in their music is truly exceptional: Using themes inspired by classical music, they have transformed them into a wholly new and contemporary composition, marked by their own unique style, colouring and instrumentation. If a river is the lifeline of the land, then their music was the means by which our film was nourished.

And my deepest thanks to Nico Archambault for his courage in taking on this rather imposing challenge. I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for him. Initially, I thought I had hired an extraordinary dancer. Instead, I discovered a great artist with limitless potential.