The Cut – episode one: British designer Es Devlin | BFI Player

The Cut – episode one: British designer Es Devlin | BFI Player


– [Es] I want to get lost in a film.
I want to absolutely be taken over by it. I’m not involved in the craft of making
film, actually, because in theatre I frame the shot. What I make frames it for the
audience, helps guide the audience. ♪ [music] ♪ I’m Es Devlin.
I am a stage designer and also an artist at the moment. Actually,
how do I put that? Because I’ve just done all this bloody art.
I’ve been designing for theatre and opera and fashion and pop concerts for Beyonce
and Kanye and Adele. And I also make solo installation work as
well. I’m used to theatre. There’s a context around theatre.
I need that around my films as well. I want to be part of the conversation
around the film, not just imbibing it. No, I’m thinking because we have a gap. Because we have a gap. And then it sneaks
around the corner. It’s a film called “Tango” by Zbigniew Rybczyński.
This is a film that I would advocate everybody having a look at.
It will take eight minutes of your life and I think it’s an extraordinary metaphor
for everything and a lot of my work perhaps wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t
seen it. It’s a sense of an entirety of human activity overlayed and happening within one contained frame
and it’s actually infiltrated all my work since.
Charlotte Gainsbourg and I were born the same year, 1971, and the first film I saw
of her’s was “Le Petit Voleuse”. I immediately associated and found her
character incredibly resonant with mine. We were the same age and then to
re-discover her laterly, still the same age, funnily enough,
the work in “Nymphomaniac” I think is exceptional as a exploration of
femininity, of female sexuality. – [Babysitter] Do you want to say goodbye
to your mom? – [Woman] Goodbye. – She’s so addicted and determined to
follow one path of her character that she has to abandon another.
She’s trying to be a woman sexually and she’s trying to be a mother.
I think it’s unusual to find a piece that goes that deeply into someone’s sexuality
with that level of vulnerability, exposure, honesty. I mean I think it’s,
you know, essential viewing, really. Now, where is it going to go because
those… “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is a film that speaks to many of the
things I’m fascinated about in terms of metaphor and there’s a book I read when
I was about 16 called ” The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci” which talks about systems
of memory that are formed around architecture.
So if you want to remember something, whatever it is, if you stick it to a
number of things in a room, you will be able to recall it.
And “Spotless Mind” takes that and then pulls it apart. – [Clementine] Can’t you see?
I love you, Antoine. – [Male 1] Okay, we’re back in. – The films that I’m genuinely attracted
to are the ones that are able to abstract from the literal. So often, you know,
we take on board that the film screens are there and that it’s just a portal into
another literal world. If the screen starts to move or be
penetrated or open or revolve or turns out the screen is only one side of a
sculpture or is the inside of something else,
then you have to engage with it on a new set of terms, and “Eternal Sunshine of the
Spotless Mind” just focuses that into the very specific and very personal. – Joel. Joel, look. – [Joel] What? – Look where we are. – When you have the possibility of
anything through a camera’s lens, how do you limit that?
How can you impose on yourself parameters? Whereas, with theatre,
there’s already such an imposition of economy because you can only fit
certain stuff in the room. So when films apply that kind of economy
to their visual language, I often find that incredibly powerful.
Give me a film without a screen. Give me a film in midair and then I’ll be
happy. I first discovered the Jean Cocteau “Ophee” when I was working on an opera
version of it by Phillip Glass. The scene, particularly, when a man is looking in the
mirror and you absolutely believe the man is looking in a mirror,
and then he falls into the mirror and the mirror splashes apart. For me,
that kind of phenomenological illusion is where you open up a whole world of
possibility in your mind. Actually, this book is a really
fascinating thing because it’s talking about euphoria of Victorian discovery of
how to make a woman disappear down a hole or how to make a woman appear like she’s
floating. How would you vanish the cup of flowers underneath the hat?
It goes through zoetropes, it goes through all sorts of things.
I really want a film to have a hole so I can penetrate it so I can walk through it.
There’s some extraordinary scenes in that film where he’s drawing with white lines
on a black background and then he’s punctuating a drawing with an arm and a
head. And the films that I’ve been making for my installation work have apertures in
them, so we know how to engage with a film. We’re very used to it.
But if you could also permeate it, then it becomes something else and I
learnt that from “Ophee”, I think. I guess some of the most extraordinary and
important experiences that I’ve had in a cinema have been, if I analyse it,
independent cinema. It’s those experiences where you know you are having a distinct
engagement with a voice that hasn’t been diluted. It’s the singularity of
purpose and the way that a director’s vision has been able to be seen right
through in its completeness. We need to cherish and hold on to clear
vision, clear train of thought that has been undiluted. – [Male 2] Action. – And that’s a cut.


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