Sunday, October 20, 2019

Interview with Zhang Bo and Zhang Chong, directors of “The Fourth Wall”

The movie tries to break the wall that stands between us and our lives, memories and future

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Zhang Chong and Zhang Bo are both graduates from Beijing Film Academy, they are the directors of The Fourth Wall.

Zhang Chong began his film career as a scriptwriter and producer of famous Chinese television programs. His script works include Full Circle by Zhang Yang, (2012). He produced Tiny Times 3.0 (2014) and Tiny Times 4.0 (2015). Super Me is his first film as a director. The Fourth Wall is Zhang Bo debut film as both director and screenwriter.

Related articles: Review of “The Fourth Wall”

China-underground: A story about psychological traumas, where a state of depression leads to a dissociation of reality. Why did you choose to address this issue?

Zhang Bo, Zhang Chong: We have seen a data saying there are more than 100 million people in China that are particularly vulnerable to unhappiness. There are many reasons for being unhappy, but most of them are caused by psychological problems. However, China’s attention to mental health is just getting started.

We are inevitably immersed in this reality, the film market in China is growing rapidly, the cinema industry is becoming more and more mature, yet the good films are less and less. What’s the problem? We often also end up harnessed by the contradictions and torments caused by market demand and the beginning of the cinematographic creative process.

Often we must think of the present always having in mind a future perspective, how to make our hectic life meaningful, what is the relationship between our past, present, and future? The film was born in this kind of thoughts.

Of course, this kind of thinking is not limited to people, but also includes the city that raised us.

China’s northeast old industrial city was originally the “eldest son of the Republic” (共和国长子, The eldest son of the Republic generally has two meanings. One is the description of the region: specifically, the Northeast region that has strongly supported the nation’s construction since the founding of the People’s Republic of China and the second is used to describe large state-owned enterprises that made important contributions to the country).

The glory of the industrial era has become a thing of the past, at the expense of huge sacrifices, but now that the factory has closed down, the workers have nowhere to go. It seems that they have had a good life. Now they can’t find a way out. Only when they are truly accepting it, will there be future possibilities. 

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本片是关于心理创伤的故事,其中抑郁状态导致现实的分离。你为什么选择这个话题的原因是什么?

 我们曾经看到一个数据,说中国人特别容易不快乐,其人数超过亿,不快乐的原因很多,但绝大多数都是因为心理问题造成的,然而中国对心理健康方面的关注也只是刚刚起步的阶段。作为这个时代的一份子,我们作为创作者,也是陷入其中的,中国的电影市场正在飞速增长,电影工业日益成熟,但好电影却越来越少了,这到底是什么问题?我们也常常陷入市场需求和创作电影初心之间的矛盾和挣扎中,时常思考着如何用未来的眼光看待当下,如何让自己当下的忙碌变得有意义,自己的过去、现在和未来到底是什么关系?在这样的思考中,诞生了这部电影。

 当然这种思考也不局限于人,也包含生养我们的城市,中国的东北老工业城市,当初是“共和国的长子”,曾经工业时代的辉煌已经成为过去,以巨大的牺牲为代价的,但如今工厂倒闭,工人无处安放,好似曾经拥有过美好,如今找不到未来的出口,唯有真正的接受,正面伤痛,才会有未来的可能性。

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– Many scenes rotate on the two main characters. Telling a story at various levels using two main actors, what tricks and ploys does it require? How long did it take to shoot all the movie scenes?

This film has been trying to avoid technology, the whole creative process was like planting a seed and letting it sprout slowly.

Using the concept of a parallel world that today’s audience can easily understand, it tells the story of psychological reality. If someone has read Borges’s “The Garden of Forking Paths”, it may be easier to understand what it is like to have all kinds of possibilities in one story.

This is a kind of fantasy that so many people have: if we had made other choices, what would our life be like today? We shot the part of Madagascar in Africa first, then the part in the northeastern part of China, and the filming period was 35 days.

本片有许多场景在两位主角上变换。用两位主角,来从各个不同角度来阐述故事, 其中使用的技巧和手法有哪些? 一共用了多久时间拍所有的场景?

 这部电影,一直努力的在避免着技术和技法,整个创作好像只是种下了一个种子,让她慢慢的生长出来。用了今天观众很容易能理解的平行世界的概念,实则说了一个心理现实的故事。如果有人看过博尔赫斯的《小径分叉的花园》也许更能理解,在一个故事里同时出现各种可能性的是什么样子。这也是很多人都会有的一种思考和幻想,如果当初一件事情,是另外的一种状况和选择,今天的自己会是什么样子。

 我们先是拍了非洲马达加斯加的部分,然后又拍了中国东北的部分,前后的拍摄期一共用了35天。

What were the biggest challenges of The Fourth Wall? How was the film process? Did you face some unexpected moments during the shooting of it?

This is the first time that a Chinese film team went to Madagascar. We have got a lot of unique experiences. Because we have heard about the robbery of the Chinese film team in Africa, we have equipped the security guards with guns, but the actual situation is that people in Madagascar were very friendly to us, including going to their slums. Even though they have done a lot of homework, they are still in a very difficult situation.

We are no stranger to this kind of hardship, and our father’s generation has come out of such hardships. Today’s Chinese economy is developing at a high speed, the youngest generations didn’t see anything like that, but our father still remembers such hardships. We believe that their lives will be improved thanks to scientific progress.

In the northeastern part of China, nothing is really unexpected because we are very familiar with this environment. There’s a feeling that’s still fresh in my memory today while we were shooting the scene of in the theater. Because we grew up watching movies and doing opening ceremonies

in places like the “worker’s club”. When we recreated the scene, everyone felt very kind, especially when the heroine talks about her stage experience, she often cried after acting. She was in such an environment, and she is stung by the fate of such a character. There are also many movies in this movie. Her own experience, her crying often made our entire crew move, this is the details we still sigh after a long time.

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拍摄《第四面墙》所遇到最大的挑战是什么? 拍摄期间是如何处理的? 在拍摄期间,有哪些事/瞬间是出乎意料的?

 这是中国电影团队第一次去马达加斯加的拍摄,我们得到了很多独特的经历,因为之前听说过有中国电影团队在非洲被抢劫的事情,我们全程配备了持枪的安保人员,但实际的情况是马达加斯加的人们对我们都很友善,包括去他们的贫民窟,即便已经做了很多功课,但见到了依然很震撼。这种艰苦我们也并不陌生,我们的父一辈,就是从这样的艰苦中走出来的。如今的中国经济正在高速发展,国内已经见不到这样的场景了,但父一辈的描述依然记得,我们也相信他们的生活会得到科学的改善。

    在中国的东北部分,因为熟悉,没有什么是意外的。倒是有一种感受如今依然记忆犹新,就是在剧场的拍摄场景里,因为我们从小都是在这样的“工人俱乐部”里做开学典礼活动,或者看电影的,我们再现这个场景的时候,所有人都感到很亲切,尤其是女主角讲到自己的舞台经历的时候,时常在关机之后哭的不能自已,她是被这样的环境,被这样的人物命运刺痛到了,这部电影里面也有很多是她自己的亲身经历,她的哭经常让我们整个剧组动容,这也是我们经过很长时间以后,依然感叹的细节。

– The female protagonist is simultaneously weak, for years she has built protection that keeps her away from her trauma, but she is also strong because it’s not obvious to want to face and try to overcome traumas. The mind that deceives, how much do you think this phenomenon it’s spread in China?

Although we don’t have data, this situation is not uncommon around us. There were two sages in China, Laozi and Confucius. Although Confucius was taught by Laozi, their worldview and attitude towards the world are completely different.

Laozi is to remain on the margins of society, while the doctrine of Confucius is to act and find a role within society. These two methods can cover everyone in a general way. The two states of the female host in the film are exactly the embodiment of these two methods.

片中女主的形象有弱的一面,多年来她建立自我保护机制,让自己远离创伤;但她也有很坚强的一面,因为创伤不易面对和克服。 思想具有欺骗性,您们认为这种现象在中国普遍吗?

 虽然我们没有数据,但这种情况在我们的身边并不少见。中国有两位圣人,一位是老子,一位是孔子,虽然孔子师从老子,但他们的世界观,面对世界的态度截然不同。老子是出世,孔子是入世,这两种方式可以笼统的涵盖所有人。片中女主的两种状态恰是这两种方式的体现。

– Can you share with us a story from the backstage of the movie?

There are a few scenes in our script, about the re-enactment of what the hero and heroine went through.

We also shot this part and also found two young actors who played Xiao Liu and Xiao Ma Hai. We kept this part in the firsts version of the movie, but it was removed at the end. Because we believe that what happened in the beginning, what the truth is, is no longer important.

Although the suspense created by this truth attracts the audience, the idea of this film is not to explore the truth, but to accept life positively with its goodness and pain, in the best way, to get rid of the pain.

您们能和读者分享影片幕后的故事吗?

 在我们的剧本中有几场戏,是关于当年的男女主人公到底经历了什么的再现,我们也拍摄了这部分的内容,也找了两个小演员饰演小刘陆和小马海,在最初的几个剪辑版本中都保留了,但最后还是拿掉了。因为我们认为,当初发生了什么,那个真相到底是什么,已经不重要了,虽然这个真相是吸引大家的一个悬疑点,但这个电影的立意并不是要探索真相,而是什么样的生活都会有其美好和痛楚,如何能正面的接受,才是摆脱痛苦的最佳方式。

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The film is also an experiment in expressionist psychological realism. How do you expect audience reaction will be? Is there a message that you would like to be perceived by the audience?

During the creation phase, we did not deliberately try to follow certain principles, all this process happened naturally, in a free manner, but after we finished it, we realized that the work was strictly in line with psychological realism.

When we created, we reached a consensus that the film should be an interesting expression of the sensory world. Entertaining is very important. If the movie is not entertaining, it will lose the audience.

Commercial movies are looking for the greatest common divisor that everyone is interested in. But this work is not looking for the greatest common divisor. I believe the movie will be more appreciated by introspective people.

本片也具有对现实心理主义表现的实验。您们如何期待观众对此的反映? 您是否希望观众能给感受到这个讯息?

 在创作的时候,并没有刻意的迎合什么,遵照什么原则,是非常自由的遵循内心而创作的,但出来以后,发现是严格的符合心理现实主义方式的。我们在创作的时候,达成了一个共识,那就是电影应该是个有趣的感官世界的表达,如何做到有趣,是非常重要的,如果不能有趣就会损失观众,商业片就是在寻找所有人都感兴趣的最大公约数,但这部作品并不是在寻找最大公约数,而是面对那些真正琢磨过自己内心的人的,我相信一定会得到一些人的共鸣,也一定会让一些人无感。这是任何有作者性的电影在探索同时也无奈的地方。

Interview to Zhang Chong:

Zhang Chong

– You work as a producer and screenwriter. What motivated you to become a director?

The will to become a film director is something that has never changed since I attended the Beijing Film Academy in Beijing. But getting a director’s chance is hard, and there have been countless failures in the middle.

Being a screenwriter and a producer enriches your experience and ability. From studying movies to now, 20 years have passed. I hope I can continue to be a director and that my work will be recognized.

您此前为制片和编剧为主,是什么促使您成为导演?

做导演拍电影,是从上北京电影学院以来一直没有变的追求方向,但得到导演机会是很难的,中间也经历过无数次的失败,做编剧、做制片人,都是在丰富自己的经验和能力,从学习电影到现在,20年过去了,我也希望自己能做好导演这个职位,能被认可,能继续拍下去。

– Do you think that your experiences in different cinematographic fields have contributed to add something more to the direction of The Fourth Wall?

It was helpful both in terms of resources and expertise. Mastering the film industry makes the filming process very enjoyable, but the most important thing is whether the film itself has its own quality and uniqueness.

As I said before, this grows like a seed. The movie has its own destiny. 

您认为您此前在业界的经验,是否有助于执导《第四面墙》?

 一定是有帮助的,无论是资源方面,还是电影界的前辈,都给予了这部电影很大的帮助。对电影工业的掌握让这部电影的拍摄过程进行的很愉悦,但最重要的是这部电影本身是否具备自己的品质和独特点,就像我之前所说,这个像种子一样慢慢生长出来的电影,有了自己的命运。

zhang bo
Zhang Bo

Interview to Zhang Bo:

– The Fourth Wall is your debut film as both director and scriptwriter. Can you tell us about what did you enjoy most of both roles?

As a screenwriter, I want to tell a story, create a character, as a director, I want to express an idea, show a picture, and try to let more people accept it and like it. I enjoy this process of searching and exploring.

It’s like having a dream, not only does it want to tell you something, it also wants to show you something. I enjoy growing up with my protagonist, facing difficulties together, and embracing the feeling of hope together.

《第四面墙》作为您执导和编剧的处女作,请问在这两个职位中最享受的是什么?

作为编剧,想讲好一个故事,创造一个人物,作为导演想表达一种思想,展现一种影像,力图让更多的人接受并喜欢,我享受在这个寻找和探索的过程中。就像做了一个梦,不仅想讲给你听还想拿给你看,我享受和我的主人公一起成长,一起面对困难,一起拥抱希望的感觉。

– The screenplay is well structured and developed in the way to present the metaphor of the mind and the stage. Did you plan ahead, or did you followed the flow? How long did it take you to write it?

When we decided to name the “Fourth Wall”, we tried our best to show the relationship between illusion and reality through this concept of the stage.

When shooting the scene part of the stage, the real scene also brought us some inspirations that were not thought of in the early days, broken stages, abandoned props, and many elements were wonderfully combined at that moment.

 It took a total of two years to complete the script, overturning many different settings, and finally, at the moment we saw the deer, we decided on the final plan.

本片剧本架构很好,发展方向很好呈现了思想和舞台上的隐喻。您是提前有计划,还是在拍摄中渐渐添加的? 该剧本用了多久时间写的?

在确定名为“第四面墙”的时候,我们就尽力计划通过这个关于舞台的概念来展现虚幻与现实之间的关系,当拍摄舞台现场部分的时候,真实的场景也给我们带来了一些前期没有想到的灵感,残破的舞台,废弃的道具,很多元素就在那一刻奇妙的组合在了一起。

完成这个剧本一共花费了两年的时间,推翻了很多次截然不同的设定,最后在看到鹿的那一刻,我们决定了最后的方案。

Thanks to Fortissimo Films

Dominique Musorrafiti
Dominique Musorrafitihttp://www.china-underground.com
Writer and Photographer. Ciao! My name is Dominique. I’m Italian and I’m proud to be a mix. My father was an Italian chemical engineer and high school teacher, with Greek and Polish heritage. My mother is Haitian, she was high school language teacher, with Dominican, Spanish, French, Portuguese, African and Native American heritage. Being a mix makes me appreciate to want to understand different cultures and lifestyles. I grew up in Italy, lived few years in Haiti, travel around main European capitals, lived seven years in China, six in Spain and UK. Traveling makes me feel that we can learn something from every situation in every part of the world.

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