I FELT LIKE AN ORCHESTRA CONDUCTOR
Some cinema directors, - those who are seeking out a compromise between the form and the contents and who fall to the lure of dramatic opera duets, - take more risk, than their colleagues with conservative moral standards. Franco Dsefirelli was the first to remove opera stars from the wide screen. Animation stepped further by equipping all kinds of objects with voices. In 2005 an unknown Christian Shaude transferred “The Nightingale” (Le Rossignol), - an Igor Stravinsky’s opera – onto film, thereby offering a unique example of visual findings superbly matching the scores and the performance. This accomplishment though has won him neither a villa on the Atlantic, nor a private plane. The unique movie was given awards by some specific television festivals; but it could hardly compete with popular genre blockbusters in Europe. Being a maximalist, Christian convinced the producers to make “The Nightingale” in the composer’s native language. He was daring enough to replace all that was real by digital. He would not let the artists relax until the music fibre of the opera was enriched with such an amount of nuances that one can only perceive it properly after the second or the third run. In our opinion, the details of the process of creation of such a fine masterpiece deserve a separate entry in history of European culture. Though in this interview with Christian Shaude by pure accident we discussed one of DE I favourite themes: “Why music?”
DE I: Here in Russia we perceive this movie as if it was made here and for us. Its aesthetic principles feel very close: a mix of East and West. Why did you decide to make this story in a Chinese style?
Shaude: It is only the action that takes place in China. I needed a bright parallel between The Nightingale‘s Song and brilliant Chinese masterpieces… The soul and the image of a free bird are manifestations of the artist; and the rest of the objects, from the modern world – WEB-cameras, mobile phones and computers - present a striking
contrast. Against this background a storyline arises: a world of artists with Chinese objects suppressed by the mercantile world. For example, commercial projects occupy the prime time on TV, while non-commercial programs are broadcast when most of the viewers have switched off.
DE I: What was the most difficult for you in the work?
Shaude: At first, when there was no decent musical idea, I didn’t want to start. But the most difficult moment happened after the movie had been finished. We faced the necessity to change a few sequences, some movements and colours. But since I didn’t allow the crew to improvise, I had to lead them, step by step: here we had to find another gesture, and there something else was lacking. Sometimes it would have taken a whole week to completely harmonize a fragment. And three weeks of elaborate calculations before we could see the final result. Sometimes I felt like an orchestra conductor: organizing people who were used to working alone facing a computer screen, as if they were my musicians. They had to coordinate each movement with the music, to keep the tempo up to semi-quavers. But what we have accomplished in the end is that the images became a part of the music.
DE I: Since when has your love for music been affecting your art?
Shaude: Music has been all round me since my childhood. I started to play piano at eight, and got seriously interested in musical images at 10-12. Then I entered the conservatoire. And still, I chose another career. In my childhood dreams I wanted to make movies on a number of my favourite classical music pieces, but at that time cinematography was not equipped to catch up with my imagination. Later I discovered Jacques Deni and his way of assembling images with television music. I began to explore how cinema shows music, if one listens to it “between sounds”.
DE I: Stravinsky's music is flexible and subtle. How did you manage to catch the spirit of the composer and to transfer it into practically perfect images?
Shaude: His music is saturated with images. I do love Stravinsky very much, that’s why I tried to fill all orchestral parts with life, colour and movement. At first I was playing with the idea to go past Stravinsky to Andersen's fable, but soon I realized that the music itself is a fabulous plot. I rejected the fairy tale idea completely and began to shape the movement, moment by moment: a panorama here, a vertical panorama there, then movement, then a close up, then a general view. Sometimes for a few days I would not have any ideas, and I was listening to the music again and again; and then all of a sudden an image would come. I’ve literally “constructed" the film - image by image, note by note, as if Igor Stravinsky left a few additional lines in his score for me to fill in.
DE I: How did you explain why the singers should sing in Russian?
Shaude: The Russian soul is expressed through beautiful Russian language, that’s why I decided that "The Nightingale" should sound in Russian. I cannot perceive music as a scheme, or a script, or dialogue; and while my images reflect the music, the music is expressed through the images as well. Stravinsky used to say: “To listen to the music is not enough, you have to see it”.
DE I: What are you working at now?
Shaude: I received an offer from Germany. But both my producer and I need some guarantees that the film will be finished, and that the situation with “The Nightingale” will not be repeated. There we encountered a catastrophic lack of finance, to finish the film at the same quality level. Producers don’t want to lose money, and with “The Nightingale” they ended up with a loss.
“The Nightingale” arithmetic by Christian Shaude:
Film duration – 50 min.
Special effects duration – 50 min.
I year was spent to draw and paint all the frames.
The special effects frames ðàñêage was made by 10 artists simultaneously.
The director was waiting 8 weeks for the computers to calculate the whole film, layer by layer, so it could be seen as a whole.
Production cost - 1 million 300 thousand EU.
Amount of money earned by the director and the producer of the film - 0.
As it usually happens with pieces of art, which are ahead of their time, «The Nightingale» is sentenced to be a donor of ideas and a testing site for more commercial and less spiritual projects. DE I intends to delay the date of the plunder. During our conversation with Mr Shaude we have agreed about special runs of the movie in Russia.
© DE I / DESILLUSIONIST #04. “Christian Shaude. I felt like an orchestra conductor”