Starting life as a music video but quickly morphing into an expressionistic amalgam of the many interpretations of its titular character, Spanish Director Marc Ortiz (who previously highlighted the violence of human indifference in Glass) and Barcelona electronic pop duo NUU’s Ophelia, is a multidisciplinary collaboration which reenvisions the myth of Shakespeare’s fateful character. DN invited Marc to share how this film organically evolved far beyond its initial parameters and why he was determined to make Ophelia as a project outside the purview of a label or production company.
Ophelia is a mythical story tackled by a lot of authors. My idea was to take some of their ideas and decode them to arrive at new meanings. So, the main characteristics of the character were extracted from Hamlet, while part of the text recited by the actors was from the book Suicide by Édouard Levé, while the locations were selected following the distressing atmosphere described by Georg Heym in his poem dedicated to Ophelia… In this palimpsest of meanings, Nuu’s song became a new approach to the myth and helped the audience to connect the different ideas. To accomplish that we decided to deconstruct the song. So, like the character, the song dies slowly while the story advances. It’s because of this I like to describe Ophelia as “the suicide of a song”.
Although the project started as a music video, Ophelia is an artistic and multidisciplinary collaboration with the music band NUU that revolves around the myth of this fateful character created by Shakespeare.
I like to describe Ophelia as “the suicide of a song”.
This was an entirely personal project without any label or production company support. We wanted to have total control of the artistic process and having this DIY approach was the only method I could think of that would give us that freedom. A philosophy that, as a director, I tried to communicate to the whole crew involved in the project. Everyone (actors, cinematographer, editor, sound designer, etc.) shared my artistic point of view about the project, but also they were free to explore new paths and improvise. Most of them are people who I constantly work with and people who I trust a lot.
The short was shot with an Alexa Mini, and we used two kinds of lenses to separate the different worlds where the story takes place: the reality (Sigma spherical zooms) and the fiction (Todd-AO anamorphics). We were also very conscious about the way we wanted to describe each scene and how we would move the camera: sometimes fixed, sometimes free and in some specific moments with zooms. In general, I opted to use long takes to generate that improvisation of the actors and the camera, looking for different registers in the performance as well as with the camera narrative.
We wanted to have total control of the artistic process.
We shot over three days in the Catalan region of Terres de l’Ebre, always using natural light and emphasizing the sunrise and the sunset. In my view, it was very important to film all the fiction scenes with this kind of light because it gives the scene a magical atmosphere, using the light contrasts and allowing the appearance of a richer colour spectrum. From one side, that “magic hour” we would work around, those 20-30 minutes where the sun is already hidden but there’s still light, speaks to the transition between day and night, life and death, but also creates a contrast, where that beauty clashes with a tricky theme like suicide, and therefore challenges the audience’s judgement.
We had a lot of footage and endless possibilities.
The postproduction process was revealing. Usually, the commercial director that I am, I have a strict storyboard that I follow. That’s why in this case I wanted to change radically and looked for an edit that could flow without any premise or premeditated idea. We had a lot of footage and endless possibilities so we decided to be carried along by the rhythm of the images and dialogue, putting the narrative structure aside. From my point of view, the film’s purpose ultimately resides in the audiovisual experience rather than the explained story, like in an abstract painting.
We enjoyed the whole process, and Alberto Bañares and me, producers as well as DP-Director duo, then discovered that Ophelia is basically untaggable, something between a music video, a documentary and a fiction short film. I guess it’s all of them and none at the same time.
I hope you enjoy experiencing it as much as we did creating it.
Ophelia is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.