Posted on April 11, 2011
Five Films Behind Hanna
Every filmmaker depends on previous films for ideas, inspiration, and imagery. But for director Joe Wright, the five films that inspired his thriller Hanna also illustrate a wildly imaginative sense of film and film history, one that moves from droll comedies to French classics, from American surrealism to Korean kick-ass thrillers.
Hal Ashby’s film Being There was a big influence on Hanna in terms of the character, Chauncey Gardiner, played by Peter Sellers. It’s a film about a holy fool, this character––a middle-aged man who we meet in a house. We don’t know what he has being doing for his entire life other than tending the garden of this house. He seems to have never left the house before and has an almost child’s like view of the world. He seems to have an arrested development. When the owner of the house dies, he has to go out into the world and experience it for the first time. Because of the simplicity in how he views the world, people project themselves on to him and imagine that he is this very wise sage, when in fact he is just talking about gardening. He has a meeting with the president and the president is talking about the economic down turn, and Chauncey Gardiner starts talking about “in winter, things die, and in the spring, things grow again.” And so that Holy Fool type of character that allows others around him to project themselves on to him and to learn something about themselves was an influence on the character of Hanna, who I saw as a kind of Holy Fool character.
Pasolini’s Teorema (or Theorem), which was a big influence on Hanna, is a simply structured film, almost like a triptych. There is a middle-class family living in Milan and this character shows up played by Terrence Stamp––obviously a very beautiful man––and they all think he is there for someone else. No one really questions his presence in this house. But they all open up to him. He doesn’t really say anything, offers no explanation for his being there. But each member of the family is kind of seduced by him, and allows him or herself to totally open up: the father becomes mad, the mother sexually obsessed, the young daughter goes into a frozen state, the son becomes an artist and the maid becomes a kind of saint. It's a very strange film, properly an art film, but a really interesting piece of work. Theorem influenced in particular the section with the family.
The film Pickpocket by Robert Bresson was a big influence in the simplicity and elegance of shooting action sequences. There is a scene where three pickpockets are working a train station. There is no fighting, but there is amazing, beautiful piece of choreography, where one character moves to another character. And you follow the wallet from one pickpocket to another pickpocket––how they pass it through the station. It is very economically told. Not fast cutty. It was very clear as well and that is something that I wanted to try and achieve. These actors were doing these amazing things that I thought should be seen rather than being hidden by a barrage of edits. I was interested when approaching the film in the idea that action was necessarily about fighting. Action was everything the actors did other than speaking. Action was the organization of figures in space. Choreography, dance, is the same. I tried to develop a form of filmmaking that didn’t differentiate between fighting and physical being.
David Lynch has been influence on my cinematic life. When I was 15 my parents went away for a holiday leaving me alone in the house for the first time with a VHS machine. I found a tape of Blue Velvet and watched it on rotation for about 16 times. I was stunned by what felt like completely revolutionary poetry. I love it for two reasons, First of all, I think that David Lynch is one of the most important and extraordinary directors of actors. He doesn’t try to get naturalistic performances. They are very heightened performances. They somehow speak a great truth to me and I love that refusal to conform toLee Strasberg method acting. And secondly his films have a kind of mysticism to them. There is something beyond the rational appreciation, something beyond reason. I thought that I would love to achieve that atmosphere with Hanna.
[Park Chan-wook’s] Oldboy I think is extraordinary piece of filmmaking, and in particular the very famous fight in the corridor, that happens in one single tracking shot––and it's a wide shot as well. Almost a renaissance frame. This single character takes on 40 assailants and batters the lot of them. I have a feeling that people got quite hurt in shooting that sequence. Of course, that is something we weren’t able to do with Hanna.
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