How do you follow up a boundary-breaking, completely spherical short? If you’re David Gesslbauer and Michael Lange you literally go one better and devise [ UNUM ] – an epic tale of carnal pleasure, animal war and the furies of fate which impressively unfolds within the confines of a vertical frame. A film which has been firmly lodged our minds since it scooped a Kinsale Shark Gold award, we invited David to tell us about the difficulties and advantages of flipping the frame 90-degrees.
A heads up, there are some NSFW images in here.
Back when Michael and I were awarded for our experimental film ( NULL ) – where the whole story unfolds in a strict circle – we knew if we ever did a sequel, we wanted it to also be in an unorthodox format. After 0 comes 1, so the vertical format was set. Besides the interesting visual challenges, we wanted the format to be crucial for the story.
The initial idea was to revolve everything around three drops – sperm, honey and blood, representative of birth, life and death. Also, they say shooting sex scenes, with animals and children are the hardest things to do. Since I’m not directing that much, I wanted to have this challenge as well.
After 0 comes 1, so the vertical format was set.
Despite some disbelief, the nature shots were mostly captured in camera, in the woods of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany, which is where my whole team were studying at the renowned Filmacademy Baden-Württemberg in Ludwigsburg. The bazaar set was part miniature, part build by my Production Designer Marta Magdalena Jeszke in our school’s studio. The vertical format came in handy as we could build all the studio sets right next to each other.
Beyond question, the animal fighting scene was the hardest to do. We had a platform with sand in a 360-degree greenscreen set and the camera rotating. The timing had to be perfect for the animals to get to the bait, still, we had a lot of tricks to do in the post.
Besides the interesting visual challenges, we wanted the format to be crucial for the story.
Speaking of the camera, we used a Sony F55 always mounted sideways. We started shooting in August 2016 and wrapped with hiatuses in Summer 2017 because we had a different ending in mind. Initially, the dying should’ve continued: the thrashing villagers who kill the hero were shot by the huntsman from the cave, and then all the villagers revolt against the huntsman, which results in a raging war where everybody is dead at the end.
We shot parts of the battle, but since it was only Michael and at times me doing the VFX, we weren’t able to finish it to a satisfying degree. So we reshoot the blood-splattered face and reused the scene beneath the waterfall, which was cut out for a long time in the forest sequence.
I am glad we did it that way, the ending now makes me feel something and leaves room for interpretation. For me, it’s coming full circle, rebirth, resurrection.