Zhang Chong was highly motivated to become a director since his beginning at the Beijing Film Academy.
After his studies, he started a career as a screenwriter and producer for famous Chinese television programs. This experience has enriched his knowledge and skills in the film industry, both in terms of resource organization and techniques. In this way, his approach to directing his debut film is pleasant and also rich in quality. Super Me is his first film as a director. In his film, we can see numerous influences from various origins including literature, psychology, psychoanalysis, such as Freud, Jung, and Borges. The film tells of a journey into the depths of the mind and daily internal struggles. A film where genres such as science fiction, romance, comedy, action, fantasy, adventure, and psychological thriller meet and combine.
What motivated you to choose to deal with the theme of dreams and the unconscious in your first direction?
There are many records about dreams in the history of human civilization. Even some major historical events have something to do with dreams. Some many scientists and artists get inspiration from their dreams. Since more than 100 years ago Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt‘s experimental psychology studies separated psychoanalysis and psychology from traditional science becoming a recognized scientific category. Later, many masters were born including Freud and Jung. Our movie is based on these theoretical assumptions. Each of us will inevitably encounter some uncomfortable things in life, We often lament that our luck is not good, the time is not right, and we often forget that we are in the era of great opportunities. Everyone’s world is subjective. The reason why I chose this theme is that the most important thing in our cognitive process is to recognize ourselves. Before we figure out what we want, we need to recognize ourselves. The film is a way of knowing the world for me. I am eager to share this with you.
This philosophical thriller might open a door to questioning the authenticity and the way we perceive this world.
I read that you started filming the movie in 2016. There were changes from the beginning story to the current version? How was the shooting process? Did you face any difficulties during the shooting of “Super Me”?
The story was written in 2012 and the preparations started in 2016. It took more than three years and four years. There are five or six versions of the movie telling a completely different story. Let me give an example. There is a version where the hero, Sang Yu, is a screenwriter whose dream is obviously to make a good film from his screenplay. His knowledge of cinema is endless. A movie fanatic probably knows more than 5000 films, an expert much more. In this version, what he thought about during the day he would have dreamed of it at night. The dream world of Sang Yu was made up of a variety of classic films. Later we gave up the script because it involved too much dealing with film copyrights, and it was difficult for us to get them.
Moreover, copying scenes and characters from many classic movies is not only difficult but also if there is a slight misstep it can easily fall from a tribute to a spoof, and I don’t like spoofs. I want to make a serious film thoughtfully, so I gave up this plan.
The difficulty in the film now was how to get more people to understand our concept of the dream scene. One was merely a problem of production and implementation, and the other instead was the main character’s back and forth transformation. There’s an obvious allegory in this movie. I hope that everyone can enjoy the movie, without the feeling of being taught. It did take a lot of work.
The world of art is a significant element of the film. In the “revelatory” sequences a bas-relief occurs many times, which is destroyed by the demon. Can you tell us about its story? Is it a piece of art on commission?
Although we could count on the imagination of artists, sound engineers, and special effects artists, we always relied on the “Dictionary of Dreams” when we were filming.
Each scene and object is well thoughtful and reflects some aspects of the subconscious. The average viewer sees a scene full of imagination, while a more expert viewer can grasp references from different cultures. I didn’t explain certain things because we weren’t filming the “Da Vinci Code”. The bas-relief you mentioned represents breaking through the cage of our thoughts.
Find inner strength, and be the super version of yourself.
In both the films “Super Me” and “The Fourth Wall” the main characters find within themselves, the solution to overcome their difficulties and make their lives better. One in dreams and the other overcoming traumas. Is the answer within us?
Yes. All good stories contain a moral, all artistic existence is meant to conquer the public’s feelings. The protagonist is subjected to a process of growth and searches for answers. Likewise, the public must try to find their answers.
A super dream that can make a sleeping person, into a rich one during the night. But being able to realize your dreams, does it really allow you to have a super life?
In both your films we see that experiences and choices can change a life. How much do you think nowadays people realize that a small choice involves big differences?
I believe that everyone has this experience when they think about their lives, but when facing the pressure of our existence, the tired heart always refuses us to think like this. Immersing ourselves in reveries offers us nothing directly, and often this process makes us miserable. People who accept reality often stop thinking about the possibility of choosing again. But I always wanted to ask questions about reality. Is the reality that we take for granted the reality?
Murakami in South of Border, West of the Sun said that it is necessary to clarify the reality around us with the unreality of the world. I think everyone should think about it.
The integration and visual fusion between real elements and special effects is remarkable
How much of you, from your personal life experience and philosophy can we find in your movies?
It can be said to be everything or nothing. Movies are a tool for me to understand the world, what’s in the film is my attitude and vision of the world. It has little to do with the details of my own life, but it does reflect my very personal thinking and exploration.
“Super Me” was world-premiered at Sitges before its distribution at home turf in China.
In “Super Me” can perceive a criticism of materialism, which is not synonymous with happiness. We live in a wild and compulsive consumerist era. Do you believe that a psychological thriller like “Super Me” can open a door to questions and help to recalibrate and rebalance the reality of the ego?
This is a good question. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Physiological needs, Safety needs, Esteem needs, self-actualization), the protagonist Sang Yu falls into dreams following this hierarchical logic, first, solving the problem of food and clothing, then thinking about the rest. The narrative method is from reality to magic. Why from reality?
The movie is asking questions about reality. Many movies don’t answer. Good movies should be ambiguous. If the audience asks questions about the movie itself, the audience can get their own answers, and even find an opportunity to think about their lives. I think that’s what every creator wants.
Photos courtesy of Fortissimo Films