Alfonso Cuaron: “I’ll never do a movie set in space again”

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Alfonso Cuaron Gravity
Warner bros

On the occasion of the rebroadcast of Gravity, this Sunday on TMC, here is an interview with its director, met at the end of 2013.

First: From start to finish Gravity, one wonders how you did it. How you succeeded, in particular, in recreating the absence of gravity …
Alfonso Cuaron: We had to design the technology ourselves to make this film because it didn’t exist. The first step was to “pre-animate” Gravity in great detail by studying the effects of zero gravity. The funny thing is, when you are a facilitator, you learn to draw with the notions of gravity and horizon. You draw a line, which is your horizon, then you draw your character and, if you’re good, you get to infuse a sense of weight into your drawing. Here, the animators had to forget everything they had learned because there was neither gravity nor horizon. Once the film was pre-animated, everything then had to be programmed. Do you see the automatons that are used to assemble the cars? We used it for cameras and lights. Sandra (Bullock) spent much of the shoot harnessed inside a three by three meter cube. The cube shook her a little, but it was above all the camera and the lights which, mounted on these articulated arms, moved around her according to a choreography prepared in advance.

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The poor !

Yes, she suffered … When she was not in the cube, isolated from the rest of the team, she was working out. But it was very beautiful to watch. One of the robots carried the camera; another, the light representing the sun; a third, a kind of giant photo of the Earth. And it all moved in sync. In fact, the whole thing did not look like a movie set but an art installation. And that was just the technical side of things. The most complex part was to manage to tell the interior journey of this woman who lived a terrible tragedy while avoiding the sandwiches of explanations on what happened, the flashbacks on Earth, the scenes in Houston, etc. . Narration is the poison of cinema.

Is that really what you think?

I’m going to explain to you what I have a problem with in contemporary cinema: you go to a multiplex, you settle in, you close your eyes, the film begins, you eat your popcorn, it ends and … you don’t have not remembered anything. Why ? Because there have only been close-ups of people telling you the story: “We’re going to do this or that. “” Yes, but be careful because this or that. »We tell you everything. For my part, I made sure to dwell as little as possible on Ryan’s past in order to allow the spectators to project themselves into the film. We all go through hardships, whether it is bereavement, illness, dismissal, love breakup. It’s part of life, and unless the curse really hits you, you’ll be okay with it. But what will you have learned from these trials? This is the question.

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In The Sons of Man, the human species was threatened with extinction. There too, it was about being reborn, in a way …

This subject intrigues me. But you don’t have to die to be reborn. No need to be struck by an incredible revelation. In fact, it is a matter of self-awareness. With Sandra, we understood each other straight away because we met at a time when we were going through difficult things in our respective lives. You can be cynical and say that people don’t fundamentally change, but I know that’s wrong. It’s not just about changing, it’s also about reinventing yourself. I have already known that with Y tu mama tambíen (2001), when I needed it: at that time, I was dying.

To die ?

Yes, creatively. I was going in a direction that did not suit me. I was trying to fit into the Hollywood mold. Finally, I locked myself in my home for two weeks and watched the old New Wave films that made me love cinema. And that’s how I took a new direction. Well, not new in fact. It was just the path I should never have left.

What inspired Gravity ? Where did the idea for the film come from?

At the moment, my son Jonás is preparing his second feature film as a director (A Boy and His Shoe). Four and a half years ago, he came to submit the script for his film to me and, after reading it, I told him that I didn’t have much to complain about and that it was rather I who was going. need his help. His script reminded me of A death row inmate escaped, of Robert Bresson – it’s the story of a guy who escapes from prison – except that Bresson had made a film about the idea of ​​transcending one’s limits. A little like The Great Ecstasy of the woodcarver Steiner, of Werner Herzog, which evoked a ski jumping champion. This is what I saw in Jonás’ screenplay: an apparent simplicity, almost an abstraction, which made it possible to touch something bigger. And that’s how we started to write Gravity together.

Do you think the film would be different if you hadn’t worked with him?

I don’t think I would have done it without him. He would tell me things like: “You know, I like your movies, they’re cool but sometimes you preach a bit too much. You can say it all in a funnier way. “

But why Gravity? Why the space?

I’m the generation that saw Armstrong go to the moon. I was 8 years old at the time of the event and I was fascinated by the fact that these people were facing such a hostile, lifeless environment. And also by the idea that, from up there, you could see the rest of the world. In a bubble. In a small capsule. One of the reasons we have a hard time breaking out of our old patterns is that we too live safe inside our little bubbles. In the film, in the face of danger, the character of Sandra bullock will literally have to come out of hers: when she takes off her suit, she gets a makeover, while still belonging to a larger bubble – her orbital station – then to another – the spaceship … have to get rid of these different skins.

The Sons of Man was a pretty dark anticipation film while Gravity celebrates the triumph of the human spirit. Are you more of the pessimistic or optimistic type? I am a great pessimist about the present, but I am optimistic about the future. The problem is, human nature is selfish. Some species tend to sacrifice themselves for the next generation, but we don’t. I recently read an article that said that if a meteorite hit the Earth at the risk of destroying it, we would see all governments working hand in hand to send Bruce willis disintegrate it, as in Armageddon. This is what is happening from an environmental point of view: disaster is approaching. Yet no one is doing anything because it is not us that he is threatening but the next generation.

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Unlike most big studio movies, Gravity is not an adaptation but an original screenplay. Was the project difficult to sell to Warner?

Yes, but they immediately bought into the concept. So they invested a lot of money and time in a technology that, until the very last moment, we weren’t sure would work.

Today, a ticket to the cosmos costs $ 200,000. Would you be interested ?

Yes, but to go there as a tourist because I will never remake a film set in space. While filming, I ran into Danny Boyle at an airport. He sympathized: “I too went there for Sunshine and will never go back!” On the other hand, I think the Warner would love to send me there and leave me there!
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Trailer of Gravity :

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