360 is the new film from Fernando Meirelles, the director of City of God and The Constant Gardner. The film follows a wide variety of people and the chance encounters they have with one another. The story rotates between characters with one character meeting another character, and then that new character leaving and meeting another new character, and so forth.
Cinedelphia interviewed Fernando for his new movie and talked about how he got involved with the film, how Goodfellas influenced his early work, and what important issue he plans to tackle with his next feature.
Cinedelphia: How did you get involved with this movie?
Fernando: I was invited actually, I was working on something else and then that project fell apart and I got invited by Peter Morgan, the writer, and he had been working on it by himself, he wasn’t hired to write it, he just wanted to write a very personal story. So really it’s a film by Peter Morgan that I directed.
C: I saw though that it is based off of a play, how closely does it follow its source material?
F: Actually it’s not. The play is by an Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler and this year is it’s hundred and fifth anniversary, but Peter didn’t adapt the play. He wanted to write a play with one character who takes you to the next level and to the next level and how it all goes together in a circle. In the play there are nine sex scenes with one character who meets another character for sex, and then the second meets a third and they have sex and it’s about disease being spread in that story.
C: But you decided not to do that with your movie, there is no disease being spread.
F: No, our story is very different. Our story is about people, their desires, and how they’re always trying to struggle with their desires, as ourselves.
C: Did you find yourself following the screenplay closely or were there any changes you made to the film?
F: The story and the characters all was there in the script, but of course there is how you give your take on the film such as with the artistic set, or costume and shooting the scenes. I even changed the dialogue and I always ask the actors to read me lines differently, because even from the same script you can have really different films.
C: This is a smaller budget film for the high caliber actors who participated in it.
F: Yes, $15 million.
C: So how did all these A-list actors get involved?
F: Well it’s not because they were paid (laughs) but it’s much less money than they’re used to. It’s because they all had an interest in the film you know? We needed each of them for 5 or 6 days so it was really easy to fit into their schedule. I think they were all very interested in telling these stories, but each one did it for a different reason actually. Even actors who aren’t big here are very popular in their home country, like the Brazilian girl or the Russian guy or the German, are all very known.
C: I was thinking that the two sisters in the beginning were very good.
F: I know they’re really good, but nobody knows them.
C: Yes and I was surprised that they were able to hold their own against big stars such as Rachel Weisz and how did you find them?
F: They were the only actors that we actually had to have for auditions. So I went to Prague and we had an audition for the girls and both of them are really good, but the little sister is just fantastic.
C: While filming with such a large cast were there any creative differences between you and the actors?
F: Yes it’s really different because some actors like to improvise and with every take it’s different. They really try a different voice but there are other actors like Moritz Bleibtreu (The Salesman) who are the opposite. He memorizes his lines and I asked him to change words and to change lines but it was already memorized, he’s like a machine, very precise and does it perfectly but once it’s done it’s done. And when you’re directing so many different actors you have to learn very fast how is the best way to approach them to make them comfortable and how to get them to give their best.
C: Is there a way you prefer, between improvising and memorizing lines precisely?
F: I usually like when the actors improvise or explore a different place. There are some directors who have the actors do it exactly as they want them to perform, and of course I have my idea of how to do it but I like to ask the actors to it differently and to add ideas.
C: When you’ve got all this improvisation and various methods of acting does it make editing difficult?
F: It’s so easy to go from one take to the other, there are so many ways to work around it. The editing room is magic, you can do anything. In a worst case scenario you just stop.
C: What about balancing the many story lines? Was this something that was difficult to do in the editing room?
F: Yes, that I think was the most difficult thing. I was always afraid because we had so many stories and we have to develop each story in only 8 or 10 minutes so I was afraid the film wouldn’t be satisfying. But I think the film as a whole works because they talk about the same thing, the choices in life and our struggles and impulses.
C: How do you react to criticism of the film?
F: The first time when I was showed the film it was received very harshly, but I’m very used to this. During my first film, my first studio release in Brazil, the film was really slammed. Because the critics were very hard on me I decided was that I wouldn’t read critics anymore because anyone can write whatever they want. And I was right because after 10 years it has become a really respectful film.
C: Are there any films or directors you take influence from? Particularly for your film 360?
F: There wasn’t any specific film, but the way I direct actors is influenced by everything I watch. I watch films all the time and if I see something interesting such as a way to play a certain scene or a certain line it becomes a part of me. It’s funny because there are some other films of mine that I know I took ideas from, but 360 was a blend of what I am.
C: Are there specific films that have influenced your other work or your career as a whole?
F: For City of God there was a film that influenced me a lot for the structure called Goodfellas. I also remember I was watching The Insider and there was this camera following the lead character all the time very close to his ears and I liked very much the way the camera was so tight to the lead character, so I did the same because I was influenced by that. But I think 360 is a mixture of who I am and everything I see.
C: Would you say that it’s your most personal film?
F: Not necessarily most personal, but it’s very intimate. All of my other films were about big issues, and this is really about love, lust, human relationships and how we are all connected to each other. Not personal, but very intimate.
C: Is there any film you would like to make in the future? Any dream project you’d love to get made?
F: Yes I’m doing a project now this year but after this one I’d really like to write something about the environment. We’re coming to a point in our planet that really we’re really destroying our planet. So whatever I do I’m sure will be about the environment and the crisis we’re living in.
360 is now playing at the Ritz at the Bourse.