Inverted love – interview with Juan Solanas, the director of „Upside Down”

We’d like to invite you to read the interview with Juan Solanas, the director of upcoming sci-fi „Upside Down” with Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess. The trailer of the movie you can find here.

„Upside Down” is your first big budget production. What were the biggest challenges for you as a director while working on such a demanding title?

„Upside Down” is an independent movie, which means basically 100% of freedom in a creative way but 100% of „money” problems. You always are at the limit and need to find solutions inside your budget. You can not ask for more. Our work consisted in optimising what we had so we could finish with it 100% on the screen. We did an incredible work with the Production Designer Alex McDowell using a lot previsualisations to optimize the budget in an artistic and an economic way: we had to build exactly what we wanted to be shown on screen, not one meter more and be very clever on the balance of what we extended digitally.

The idea of 'Upside Down” reminds me a bit of „Another Earth” – the world almost similar to ours, yet so distant. Though after the trailer, it’s obvious, that your movie is far more spectacular. Have you seen Mike Cahill’s feature? Do you notice any similarities?

Unfortunately I didn’t see the movie, but I will! I just spent 2 years working Monday to Sunday without exception 12 to 15h a day… I feel now that I am coming back from the moon, recovering a life!

What were your priorities during writing the script – to tell the interesting, breathtaking, touching story? Or to reach deeper into human soul, tell something important, and also try kind of philosophical approach (as the concept of the movie opens the gates for various interpretations)?

All of this at the same time. I like to write stories with a lot of levels of lecture, like an onion. I basically write for myself as an audience, I hate to start seeing a movie and knowing what is going happen in the next 20 minutes… in an hour etc. Life is more complex and less predictable! I like stories with a lot of humanity and of course with a strong visual language. Basically, for me making a movie is telling a story with images. I’m an Argentinian director, in my country, like other countries in the third world, reality is sometimes more raw and your life can change radically in a couple of days. When I got the idea of „Upside Down” 6 years ago, I loved the power of the metaphore of this two worlds one on top of the other. Then I knew that I got something very powerful visually and also very interesting poetically to speak about reality.

What can you tell us about the cast? How they (especially the leading couple) fit in your vision of the movie? What was it like to work with them?

I spent 3 years writing the script and discussing with Onyx Films how we were going to do the film! So I live with the characters on my mind a lot before stepping into reality: I was looking for Adam and Eden in flesh and bones, not in a physical way, but in their soul. When I saw Kirsten I knew in the moment that it was her, the same with Jim. Then I crossed my fingers hoping that they were free and that we could make a deal. Working with them was very easy and pleasant: both understood so deeply their charaters that the three of us where very relaxed, working in a playful way. I love to put improvisations in the set. It always brings back sparks of life!!! Acting is reacting, and it’s never so true as when you go into improvisations. Then, as a director, you can add new ingredients to the impro on the spot and see what happens…

Can you tell us about your plans for the future? Do you want to try yourself out in another, different genre, or will you explore fantasy cinema further?

All my movies so far are based on original ideas, one day the idea arrives and if it touches me deeply, then I start to write. This kind of ideas are like children you take and you love no matter what happens. You don’t choose what kind of children you want to have. You put all your passion in them and hope for the best. I don’t have a career plan. I am a visual director who needs to be drawn into a strong story and then, let my imagination flow.

You did some commercials and music videos, so I guess you attached very special importance to the visual side of „Upside Down”, which also is obvious after watching the trailer. Don’t you think that this is quite a problem of contemporary sci-fi cinema? Such focusing on the effects, and neglecting the story itself at the same time?

Yes, yes and yes, I agree. YOU NEED A STORY TO CARE ABOUT!!!!!!! Then you can build a very strong visual environment that will be stronger because it carries something deeper than simple Visual Fx shots. No one cares anymore about FX. You can do them in your home with your MAC or PC. You need to have a sense, a purpose, then visual shots become alive and give the story an incredible power which deepens emotions. One of the biggest task for a director is to keep The Soul of the story alive! A movie is a unity with a story, actors, visuals and music, and all that needs to be in tune!!! One story, one emotion, one soul. That’s why a director is so important: to put together all that talented people around and give unity to the movie and making the addiction of this talent to sum up more than the individual addictions added.

Tell us about your heroes, inspirations, the people which made the greatest your impact on you as the filmmaker?

Fellini: „La dolce Vita” and „8 1/2” are pieces of art to me: life, emotions, sadness and happiness all together in incredible visual language.

Tarkovsky: „The Sacrifice”, „Stalker”: what an incredible achievement! What this movies transmit is so deep; deeper than what the words of dialog transmit. It’s an incredible, poetical, visual language.

„Eraserhead” by David Lynch was another incredible shock for me, I saw it when I was 13 and just mermerise me. Again: deep visual language with a very deep story, both together to create an incredible movie.

„Pandora and the Flying Dutchman”: Albert Lewin with the incredible Ava Gardner and James Mason. One of the most beautiful technicolor ever, with an incredible love story with complex human characters . A universal story for a very unique movie.

„Sunset Boulevard” by Billy Wilder: What a story ! The most beautiful black and white possible with a very poetical visual language.

I love imagination and find more and more difficult to see it on the screen. The screenwriter Charlie Kaufman wrote two incredibles movies shot by two incredible directors: „Being John Malkovich” by Spike Jonze and „Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” by Michel Gondry.

„Brazil” by Terry Gilliam: extraordinary imagination!!!!

Once more: imagination, story with emotions, very strong visual language,  this is what drives me in the movie industry.

Thank you for the interview, Juan!

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