New Interview with Christophe Gans settles some things once and for all:
The interview was in a French magazine, but Boblecon1096 at the Silent Hill Forum was nice enough to offer up a translation... It seems kind of iffy in places, but eh, here it is:
You won’t escape
Adapted by Roger Avary and Roger Roberts after a story by Nicholas Boukhrief and Christophe Gans based on the popular Konami videogame, Silent Hill, (((co-produced, like the previous by Samuel Hadida (Necronomicon, True Romance, Resident Evil 1 and 2, Freeway, Nirvana and the coming soon movies Gypsy’s Curse and El Aura )))), profits from special effects and make-up from Patrick Tatopoulos and from one of the most interesting castings where we find familiar faces of fantasy movies like Alice Krige (Reign of Fire), Deborah Unger (Crash), Sean Bean (Boromir in Lord of the Rings), Laurie Holden (Marita Covarrubias in the X-Files) and Radha Mitchell ( Pitch Black ). This last one plays Rose, a woman that cannot accept the idea that her daughter is dying from a disease which doesn’t have any current treatment. Despite the protests of her husband, she runs away with her child to see a marabou. On her way, she goes across a portal that leads her in another reality and finds herself in the eerie and deserted town of Silent Hill. There, Sharon disappears and Rose follows what she thinks is the silhouette of her daughter. But she will come near many threatening creatures while a dark presence is haunting the area transforming anything it touches. The human townsfolk- what’s left of them- cannot run and have to battle uselessly against the darkness. Cybil, a police officer, teams up with Rose to help her cross the portal to the other side but Rose discovers that Sharon is only a pawn in a much more important game. To save her daughter, she will have to make an agreement with the Devil…
In bold on the left: After Crying Freeman and Brotherhood of the Wolf, Silent Hill is the third full-length Christophe Gans’s movie. It shows his passion for videogames which have given birth to many cinematographic adaptations like Resident Evil. This time, however, the project seems more challenging. A reason for Écran Fantastique to be on the filming set of a masterpiece that should be in theatres next year…
Under Eileen’s picture: Rose, the protagonist, is played by Radha Mitchell in this ambitious French production which is actually being filmed in Toronto.
Under Maria’s picture: In order to save her daughter from a disease, Rose takes her car but looses her daughter in the eerie town of Silent Hill…
Are you a big videogame player?
Yes, a quarter of my life is on playing videogames.
Did you study this game with attention?
Actually, I played the fist game five years ago and I was on the middle of it when I called Samuel Hadida (the producer) to suggest making a movie about it. We passed the five next years talking about this project and it took a lot of time to convince the people from Konami about making a loyal movie to the game. The Silent Hill team is composed of three or four employees that are really attached to their works and accomplishment. They didn’t want someone to destroy their work. A lot of time passed convincing them that we were going to make the movie by respecting the rules of the game.
THE MYTH GAME
Did you try different methods to represent the darkness before opting for the numeric solution?
No, I saw Collateral, the Michael Mann movie and some moments, especially those who had a high image definition, succeeded in capturing the lightning; even the thinner ones surprised me. I was concerned about the way I was going to reproduce the darkness on screen so I can have a similar mood to the game where the character can see only with his lighter. We tried some shots with the photo director Dan Laustsen ( The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Darkness Falls, Brotherhood of the Wolf ) and we concluded that it will be interesting to work on high definition because we could obtain great elements that we could work with and darken with pleasure (:P). Like that, we find the game’s atmosphere where there are no shadows with a good well-defined image. I was also pleased to try the high definition for the first time. Of course, the rest of the movie, the foggy world and the real dimension, will be filmed on a normal roll. I think it is interesting to use the high definition for this specific dimension: the Darkness.
Elements inspired from other movies? Were you aware of the idea that by imitating the videogame, you were finding yourself copying movies that inspired the game?
Since I’m a big movie fan, I quickly saw the reference to Adrian Lynn’s Jacob’s Ladder when I played the first game. Especially in these two scenes: the infirmary room in the beginning of the game and the hospital sequence where we can see, in fact, the basis of the game. But I find that Silent Hill succeeded in creating a completely original world. So I wasn’t afraid in adapting it on screen and I’m pretty sure you won’t find anything of that superb Adrian Lynn movie. We all agree that Jacob’s Ladder is at the root of the game with other experimental movies like David Lynch’s movies. But Silent Hill is a creation so beautiful that it exists by itself without obvious references.
What are the challenges in turning videogames to movies for people who don’t know about the game?
It’s difficult of course. That is why we were three directors when we began to write the script. There was Roger Avary, director and scriptwriter, Nicolas Boukhrief, one of my friends, who is an excellent director but also an aficionado of videogames, and me. Here we are thinking, all the three of us, about the way we can make a movie that will satisfy the gamer public because we are on their side and we didn’t want to fail ourselves. Problem: how to make a movie for those who know the game and those who don’t at the same time? Silent Hill is a story even if it stays in the background most of the time. But if you play numerous times the fist game with attention then the second game and mostly the third one, you realize suddenly that the story has a great potential and that is what we are trying to explore in this movie.
Is this movie based on Silent Hill 2?
It’s the adaptation of Silent Hill 1 with some elements of SH3 that is the direct sequel of the first and with the look of SH2 that I appreciate on this theme. However, our goal is not to make three games in one movie. We are really trying to adapt the first game; we cannot resist the temptation to incorporate here and there elements of the 2nd and 3rd game though. When we read the strategy guide of the third game, we can see that the creator wanted to explain what happened in the first Silent Hill. It’s an interesting process (continues on…)
because the first game seems spontaneous as a creation. But after that, we see that the creators tried to develop a real mythology. That is what we are going to realize in our movie: to stay absolutely loyal to the creator’s mythology that this last one tried to define from Silent Hill 2.
Under Eileen’s picture: A heroine fighting a town inhabited by worrying creatures.
THE LITTLE BLOODY MUSIC
Is it difficult to lead Radha Mitchell in the sequence you are actually filming?
It is interesting to create a sequence of suspense with a monster that does not move. Of course, the Hollywood fashion these days is rather non-stopping movements and high-vitaminized montages. I think that sometimes, it is interesting to do the complete opposite.
Why did you choose her?
It is a question of feeling. If you have played Silent Hill, you know that each character has his own poetry. They are sophisticated and crooked at the same time. We
“MOST OF THE TIME, A MOVIE BASED ON A GAME, EXPLOITS JUST THE TITLE AND DOES A MASSACRE…”
(Christophe Gans, director and scriptwriter)
always had that in mind during the casting. We weren’t looking for a star necessarily but for interesting comedians who developed their talents in independent movies like Alice Krige or Deborah Kara Unger. There are not well-known but we are sure they are going to bring something special to the movie. This one has been entirely financed by its title so why resist to the temptation of having a super casting? There is no need to take the people who are making the crowd scream at this hour. And when we see a great movie like Mulholland Drive by David Lynch, we doubt that the casting was done with any specific idea. It’s close to what we are trying to obtain here.
Will there be a lot of gore in this movie?
For me, Silent Hill is not a gore movie. It is more a disturbing one. I was afraid when I was playing because this game is constantly perturbing. We understand more or less what happened to that little girl and what they did to her. We desired to find this uneasiness in the movie but it is true that sometimes, it will be very gore.
Will the movie be rated G?
No, it’s impossible. There is gore sequences but also nudity. The pictures are disturbing, close to what we can imagine in the last Clive Barker. We are obviously not PG-13. I don’t have anything against these kinds of movies. It can happen that a movie be excellent even though it is PG-13 like The Others. Which is not even a PG-13, it is a G movie but that does not stop it from being scary. But our movie will probably not be in the same censure section. People who played the videogame know what it is about: a 10 year old girl immolated with fire. I don’t think that goes under a PG-13 rating.
How can we arrive in a balance between a beautiful picture and a seriously scary movie?
Difficult to say for the moment because I’m still on it and I can’t say if it is going to be as scary as the game. I’m doing anything I can so it can be it. It is difficult because we all know that the game is not only about beautiful images: there is the sound. The game is astonishing in the sound effect and the music. By the way, the music will be composed by Akira Yamaoka. He is the one from the games and I know that for all the fans across the world, it is an important element. His music is masterpiece. I used the original sh2 and sh3 music as a temporarily opening theme for the montage. It’s great because we know instantly if we got to something close to the game. Music is one of the essences of the game.
Explain to us the four dimensions of this world…
It is not just an idea in the game. It’s THE idea of the game. This one is built on many levels and I think the audience will like it because, on the intellectual plan, it is refreshing in its way on stacking up action and the different levels; the structure and the architecture. A big part of the game is about concept. The challenge with Silent Hill is a really difficult one because you can be in a world and suddenly you’re in another with the same structure as the previous one. We played a lot with this element in the movie.
And about creating the four looks?
Simple. We had 4 different versions of a same décor. This is important, because when you are adapting a videogame on screen, you must not just reproduce the story or the atmosphere but also the pleasure of playing the game. And in my opinion, I have not seen one single movie adapted from a videogame that gave me that feeling. And sometimes, a movie which is not a videogame adaptation, gives me that impression. Starship Troopers for example where I feel myself like inside a videogame. But most of the time, a movie based on a game, exploits just the title and does a massacre.
They don’t appreciate videogames as a form of art.
Exactly. I have an enormous respect for videogames. I sincerely believe that it is a form of art and I’m trying to reproduce Silent Hill as a game but also as the feeling I have when I’m playing it. It’s not easy to direct but I’m telling myself that, in the worst case, the movie will at least be respectful to the game’s roots.
According to you, is there any good movie based on a videogame?
For the moment, no.
Are you going to take visual points from the game?
I can tell you that a part of the movie is filmed from a crane to reproduce the isometric points of view we find in the game. I began to tame this technique in Brotherhood of the Wolf for some sequences. In Silent Hill, I’m using it a lot. There are diving camera movements that twirl in all the directions and it was amusing to reproduce these effects. We have even conceived decors with removable sections just to have these crane movements and imitate those we see in the game. We went far away with that. In fact: we have 108 decors and outdoors for this movie. Since the movie lasts approximately 110 minutes, it gives us one décor/minute which is ambitious. Especially in a way where, usually, a movie is confined inside a house where it is not only one room that is filmed. But it is uncommon to have a whole movie that happens from a side to another of a whole town. It was a great challenge especially on the decoration.
How did you choose the decorator by the way?
Carole Spier (The Fly, eXistenZ, Naked Launch, Mimic ) is great and I loved her work so much during this last years, especially about what she did with David Cronenberg. I think she’s the right person and I was pleased to have her with me on this movie because it’s a dream project for a decorator. There were so many decors to build, so much scenes to link together! Sometimes, you will see three different locations that lay on the same movement. We were forced to do so because Silent Hill does not exist, especially with these 3 or 4 dimensions.
LOST IN THE DARK
Are you building the decors little by little?
Sometimes, I link a scene shot indoor with an outdoor that we have changed completely. All the combinations are possible but the movie has been precisely entirely storyboarded and we are following the drawings square by square or we will be lost. We must not only work on the different decors but also on those dimensions. The storyboard is awfully sharp. In fact he is as detailed as the boards used for a cartoon. You should see some of these drawings. There are exactly what is going to be on screen.
Does the decoration follow exactly what is in the game?
Precisely. My quote on this movie was: “follow the game”. We all appreciate it a lot. Of course, we had to adapt the decors sometime because those in game are 3-D and it is another thing to build for real. But we followed them closely. The colors and other details were meticulously reproduced. Being a fan of the game, I would have been really sad if I don’t find him on screen.
What did you have to change?
Something that should surprise some dabblers of the game is the story that is usually in the background of the game. It is now on the surface of the movie. But all this has a purpose. Or else, we would have just a character running for an hour and half. It’s impossible to not bring the story on the surface. But there are two rolls of film that contain exactly what’s in the game: a character, alone in the streets, alone in the town, alone in the dark (now now don’t get all excited). I wanted to reproduce two rolls according to my game experience. But that’s not all. There is all the Silent Hill mythology. We are finally going to understand what happened in that town.
HELL, PURGATORY AND PARADISE
Why women as main characters?
It’s true that there are practically only women. Difficult to say why. When you will see the movie, you will understand what I mean. By thinking of all the elements in the game, we realized (Roger Avary, Nicolas Boukhrief and me) that we had to deal with an entire feminine world. We decided to create a feminine dimension for Silent Hill. I cannot say more without spoiling the game, but I feel that a way to focus on Silent Hill is feminine. If you study the game, you find out that the hero, even though he’s a man, acts in a way usually associated to women. They have affection for their children, they are sensitive and they cry. Remove the masculine appearance and you have a feminine sensitivity. The movie turns around to what is a mother to her daughter. I really felt that while playing the four games. I took the decision to insist on that point while adapting Silent Hill. We will see what fans think of it.
Did Roger Avary write a large part of the script?
Like I said, we all wrote it; Roger, Nicolas and me. Then Roger Avary worked hard on the dialogues since he’s excellent on that. It was logical to work like this together.
What will a person that does not know the game will learn from the movie?
We put the story on the surface precisely for that: It is not a movie only for the fans. It’s a movie for a various audience. It is also one of the reasons we took an entire feminine cast. To create something attractive and sexy in a subtle way. You will see, it’s a movie that you can watch without knowing the game at all.
What’s your favourite scene in the movie?
It’s hard to say. I love some of them but I had to reproduce Hell and Purgatory in this movie. Darkness is Hell and the foggy world is Purgatory. I have also to make a scene that evokes Paradise. I think this one is my favourite. It’s short but it’s my representation of Paradise.
I can't wait to see this movie! And I might be able to watch the first few minutes (here's hoping!) thanks to a friend whom I shall keep unnamed for now for his own safety. Am terribly terribly excited that the director has that much respect for the game. As well as the fact that they're getting Akira Yamaoka to do the music!!! Yeeeeha!!!!!!!!
I will be waiting for you... in SILENT HILL!