1917 interview: Sam Mendes, Roger Deakins talk about making a one-shot WWI movie
TV and Movies
Pick a man, bring you kit.
The movie is about two men who were tasked with delivering a message, across no man's land and into German territory.
That would potentially save the lives of 1,600 men including, one of the men's brother.
You have a brother in the second battalion.
They're walking into a trap.
Your orders are to deliver a message calling off tomorrow morning's attack.
And what happens to them in two hours of real time on the way, it's shot as one continuous shot.
And it was inspired by stories my grandfather told me.
And one particular story he told about carrying a message that was the germ of this movie.
And we, myself and Christina, the screenwriter here, took that idea and thought, well, what if that man kept going?
And that man became two men, Schofield and Blake.
And that's how we came up with the idea.
We wanted to tell a story that felt immersive.
So choosing to do it over one date, to do it in real time, it strips away all the artifice of cinema.
It makes reality kind of what you're gonna sit and watch.
To get inside the mind of a British soldier, well for one, I did a huge amount of research.
I read a lot of first hand accounts.
I went to France.
I went to [INAUDIBLE] war museum.
I went to I mean pretty much World War One museum I could find.
Which two characters are very different, Scofield's, played by the lovely George MacKay, he's been out there but longer, he's seen action, he's been through the Somme.
Whereas Blake, he's younger, he has come out to France, he is green.
He's probably never been in Really any action.
Blake's a very family-orientated person.
And I think he admires his brother more than anybody.
But, yeah, as you say, definitely, Blake wanted to see some action, go on an adventure.
In terms of Scofield, his home and what his home means to him, and the chinks that you get of that, and how and why he can and can't talk about it in the way that he does.
Was essential for me to know, and then also his experience of war so far was another thing they shaped his way of being.
I think that once I decided that the movie was gonna be two hours of real time, it seemed like a natural thing to try lock the audience together with the characters in a way that they coudln't escape.
And I think even thought we've shot it in one shot I don't think Roger and I want particularly the audience to be thinking about what the camera is doing.
We want them to be lost in the story.
You might be unconsciously aware that there are no edits but I don't think it's self advertising.
I hope it's not self advertising in that way.
He didn't tell me about it, he just sent me the script.
But on the front page, it said this is envisioned in a single shot in real time.
And it was a bit of a shock.
But I mean, once reading the script it's obvious what he was trying to achieve with it, with the whole idea you know?
The big difference is that I had to make judgements about rythm and tempo and the momentum of the story without cutting.
And that's somethign I do in the teater all of the time.
So judging shape and when the movie could breathe in and breathe out.
That's something that one does with stage productions.
So that muscle, I was using every day because there was no way out and there was no way of Taking a line out let alone a scene or moving the order of something, nothing like that.
Everything had to be exactly as I would want it in the final movie.
It was a wonderful experience filming in this was a real lesson in having a much more three dimensional Understanding of the film making process as a whole but then also our role within it.
And it taught us both to have an inside outside perspective on this scene.
And you know even though it's a massive for an audience member to watch the film it was, in the doing of it it was, really a massive filming.
We were the ones that was there.
And every thing you see on screen We were going for it and the conditions were realistic.
It never felt fake or acted, it felt very lived.
We couldn't shoot in [UNKNOWN] and we couldn't shoot Doing right, we needed cloud cover for majority of the film until it went to night.
And so we did spend a lot of time second guessing the weather.
When the weather was bad we rehearsed and rehearsed and perfected the shot.
As soon as the weather cloud came over
I think specifically even though you don't need to know anything about the First World War to see this movie, it is now over 100 years since the war ended, and it was a war that changed the world, changed the shape of the world, changed the shape of Europe, the boundaries are redrawn.
It was the first modern war.
It started with horses and carts and ended with tanks, and machine guns, and weapons of mass destruction.
I wouldn't say that I made it to teach an audience a lesson.
You know, it's an experience.
It's a big immersive movie, and you need to know nothing to step into the world.
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