Filmmaker Alexandre Richard returns for his third outing on DN, this time with the director’s cut of his music video for Mada Mada’s NonNonNon. As with much of Richard’s work, the first aspect that will hit you upon watching his video is the stunning cinematography. Richard has such a great eye for a frame and is able to render images that are filled with truth and substance. The story that he’s weaving here follows a man post-surgery who embarks on a dreamlike journey facing his darkest fears. It’s introspective and dramatic and even teeters into horror at times, the result of which makes for a truly compelling watch. DN caught up with Richard to talk through the personal experience he drew on to create the video, in addition to the development of the expressionistic sound design and startling VFX work.

Great to have you back on DN’s pages, Alexandre. Could you take us through the beginning of your journey making this video for Mada Mada?

When I embarked on creating the music video NonNonNon for Mada Mada, I really saw it as more than just a music video, it’s a narrative film that explores the profound themes of physical loss, grief, and the complex fears and anxieties that come with it.

The entire process of adapting this song into a visual narrative became an incredibly personal journey. I made a point of letting the song play over and over during my daily activities, whether I was driving in the city, cooking, or walking my blind dog. This constant exposure wasn’t just background noise; it deeply influenced how I conceptualized the emotional depth of the song in visual terms.

And from that process of conceptualising, what story began to form?

The story revolves around a protagonist who’s recently lost his sight, facing an agonizing decision between accepting permanent blindness or undergoing a high-risk surgery that might restore his vision, or might not. During the days he spends waiting, wrapped in bandages, he experiences a series of vivid, lucid dreams. Each dream reflects a piece of what he’s lost: his self-image, the memories of his loved ones, his standing in society, and his independence.

It’s a narrative film that explores the profound themes of physical loss, grief, and the complex fears and anxieties that come with it.

These dreams aren’t just plot devices; they’re integral to understanding the character. They advance his development and peel back layers of his psyche, exposing the raw truths of his fears and anxieties.

What do you think it was that inspired this narrative?

The inspiration for this story came from something very close to home, watching my blind dog dream. Observing him react while dreaming invisible stimuli was both heartrending and illuminating, and it made me wonder about the nature of dreams in the absence of sight. This led to the central question of the film: What does a blind man see in his dreams? We explore this through our protagonist, who, despite his blindness, experiences his losses and fears in a vivid, almost palpable way.

Could you talk about the VFX work in the final moments of the film? It’s a powerful image and the effects work is so smooth.

Indeed, the climax of the film is a heart-wrenching moment. Initially, it appears that our protagonist is taking control of his dream/nightmare, but he ultimately realizes that there is no escape from the reality check awaiting him in the real world. The VFX team at AA STUDIO did an outstanding job of bringing my vision to life and even enhancing it. I had always envisioned his eyes disintegrating, tearing away, and flying off, and we shot accordingly to follow one of these particles, a subtle nod to the feather in Forrest Gump. Marc Hall at AA STUDIO truly understood my vision and assembled the perfect team to realize this concept. My collaboration with Marc dates back some time; he has previously worked on Autonome and Flying with me, which only strengthened our creative synergy for this project.

You edited the video too, does that mean you typically direct with the edit clearly in mind?

Absolutely. For a long time, I relied on a fantastic team of editors to bring my visions to life but when I started editing my own projects, it changed everything. I gained a deeper insight into the storytelling process. I learned exactly when to cut to the next shot, what to capture in a scene, and how to transition sound with visuals. This made my storytelling more coherent and compelling. Every director should experience editing. It’s crucial to understand the synergy between editing and directing. It’s not just about technical skills; it’s about feeling the rhythm and emotional flow of a story. Editing gives you a new perspective that informs how you shoot scenes.

The video blends different genres and uses expressionist sound design, foreshadowing, and leitmotifs to heighten the dreamlike ambiance of the song.

Similarly, I think every director should take acting classes. Understanding how an actor feels when receiving direction is essential. It’s about empathy and connection. This helps in giving more thoughtful and precise directions, resulting in authentic and powerful performances. Editing your own work builds ownership and accountability. It sharpens both technical and creative skills, making you a more versatile filmmaker.

Your work always has an incredibly rich aesthetic to it. How did you approach the visual language of the video this time?

Stylistically, the video blends different genres and uses expressionist sound design, foreshadowing, and leitmotifs to heighten the dreamlike ambiance of the song and, at times, steer it towards the edge of horror. My goal was to craft a film that not only tells a story but also connects emotionally with the audience, inviting them to reflect on the themes and emotions portrayed.

We’ve spoken to you a few times now, how do you feel you’ve evolved as a director over the last few years?

I don’t believe anyone is born inherently talented. Some people are immersed in their craft from an early age because of their family, while others are shaped by their environment, their experiences, and how they’ve learned to channel their emotions into art. For me, it’s a bit of all those factors. But the key driver of my growth from project to project is my relentless self-critique and my autodidactic nature. I’m always questioning and challenging myself. I love learning, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world to me. I pour a tremendous amount of energy into reanalyzing my projects, identifying my flaws and missed opportunities. That’s where real improvement happens. I always hope to maintain this drive to do better with each new project. It’s what fuels me the most, this constant pursuit of learning and evolving.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on a short film called MONSTERA. This is a project I’ve been writing and perfecting over the past four years. We’ve secured a grant from the CALQ, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, and have a distributor on board. We’re aiming to start shooting in 2025, with a planned screening in early 2026.

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