A couple of days ago I was just doing my morning Twitter-browsing routine, when I happened across one of the most interesting and unique short films I have seen in some time. After watching the film, I was so intrigued to know more, I decided to get in touch with the director, Dennis Brucks, to get a few insights as to the inspiration and decision making behind the film.
UPDATE: Sadly the film is no longer viewable however a trailer is attached at the bottom for you to view.
The film itself follows a young boy living in a miserable situation. After meeting a little girl who has been living in the hollow wall of the building he’s occupying, the film unravels along with the tale of how he manages to break free.
The real beauty of this film is in the way in which it is filmed, and it’s exploration of human interaction and how it empowers a young boy with the bravery to get out of his terrible situation. Set with no dialogue to the orchestral piece “Boléro”, composed by Maurice Ravel, this film gives a spine-tingling visual and audio combination that truly offers an original and unique watch to the viewer.
Interview with Dennis Brucks, director.
1. Dennis, I really enjoyed watching your latest short film. How long have you been interested in filmmaking? – Is this your first short?
Thanks! I’ve pretty much always known I wanted to make movies, but I didn’t get serious about it till college. I pretty much just played Goldeneye 64 nonstop until then.
I’ve made lots of shorts but most were more practice than anything else. I’d say “Bolero” is my 2nd short since having fully developed my voice or whatever you want to call it.
2. Ravel’s one-movement orchestral piece, Boléro, was quite obviously a huge part of this short. What made you use this piece of music in particular?
It was kind of by accident. I had this story that I had rewritten over a dozen times, never getting it right – the structure especially – but I was just developing all this dramatic narrative material in terms of the characters and story beats I knew I wanted surrounding this boy in this miserable situation and this girl in the wall, and this went on and off for a few years (alongside other things).
Then I was on Youtube one day, you know how you just click from recommended video to recommended video with no agenda, and Ravel’s “Bolero” came on, and I just froze. I really did just see the opening panning shot with this boy’s face entering frame just like it does, with that powerful expression in his eyebrows and clenched jaw. It was just chills to the max. 15 minutes later my hand was a blur trying to recap everything. Not to pretend that the whole movie came to me like that, but definitely the opening and the overall structure that right away dumps you in the middle of Act 3, then plays catch-up while jumping around.
It just fits perfectly for me. I’m a big believer in taking the path of least resistance, so if it feels right, it probably is right.
3. What inspiration was there for you in making this piece?
I really like massive, baroque expressiveness. I think this relates to Sergio Leone being my favorite director. One thing I love is how for him “story” is completely secondary. It was more about the myth of the West, specifically the American literary & cinematic archetypes he grew up loving, and being Italian I think opera’s just in his blood. The way he decompresses time and builds anticipation alongside Morricone’s great music, but also celebrating these mythic moments…I just respond to that. And he himself said he makes “fairy tales for adults”, which sounds good to me as well.
Other favorite directors I tapped into are Tarantino and Mel Gibson – both major Leone disciples as well I might add. Terrence Mallick, too, especially for the flashback stuff that I wanted to feel more spontaneous. Someday I’d like to be in this company!
4. This is one of the most original and interesting shorts I have seen in recent years and is filmed in a very unique style. Notably, the extended periods of slow motion and lack of dialogue really set it apart from many others. What was your intention in filming it in this way?
Wow, thank you for that first of all!
Secondly, it comes out of trying to be really unique and really pure in using the medium. Partly because this will screen in competition in festivals so I tried to set myself up to stand out from other shorts. Most movies (shorts & features alike) are basically a bunch of character & story elements woven into a dramatic narrative, which is then more or less illustrated for the screen. I mean directors do their thing obviously but that’s generally the process. For “Bolero” it’s kind of like how Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” is a story about a young rich guy mourning his dead girlfriend, but it’s also about alliteration, rhyme scheme, and poetic structure. Now I know that’s just stupid for me to even mention his name in the same breath here, I have to say…but nonetheless, for me, “Bolero” is about a victimized boy living in a miserable situation who meets a girl and together they achieve liberation, but at the same time it’s also a celebration of that liberation through operatic cinematic terms.
So that explains the slo-mo sequences, how the lighting is more baroque and it’s filmed from only one side like we’re viewing the action as if it’s on a theatre stage, so the whole framing device feels more like a commemoration, even though we don’t know of what yet at the start. Then on the other hand you have a very grounded, dirty realism, and when the final action in the story passes these two aesthetics trade places.
Keeping it otherwise silent was again just something that felt right. I think shorts can do pure cinema better than even features, so I wrote it to only use images to tell the story.
5. What’s next for you, have you got any plans or anything you’re working on currently?
“The Road Warrior” opens with the camera pulling out of a hood-mounted supercharger revealing we’re on the Interceptor going 90 MPH being chased by S&M-clad road pirates…I don’t know what I’ll do next because I don’t know what, if anything, “Bolero” will do for me in terms of a career, but I want to do something visceral like that!