Interview to Antonis Goumas
We met director Gabe Klinger at London, where he was presenting the movie Porto in the 60th London Film Festival. Porto is the last movie of actor Anton Yelchin, who died recently. The movie is a love story produced by Jim Jarmusch and is going to be screened in a few days in Thessaloniki Film Festival.
Gabe Klinger talks to Cinepivates for the charismatic Anton Yelchin, discusses his hopes and descisions as a filmmaker and reveals that at some point Porto was going to be shot in Athens -as always buraucracy got in the way.
Was the film finished when Anton Yelchin died?
Yes, he had seen the film before he died. Not with the credits but he had seen it. He was very, very proud of his performance. I have been talking about his loss a lot. I think pain gives you energy. How do you take that pain and make it into something positive. I am taking all this energy from the grief and I am trying to put it back to the world. And I think that is the least I can do to honor him. I am angry that he is not here, that makes me very angry. How do I take that energy and put it into making sure the film goes into the world and everybody sees it? Because I want everyone to see this movie.
In London Film Festival you entered the press screening and you stopped the screening because the aspect ration wasn’t right. How did you choose that specific aspect ratio?
Oh, I thought that it was appropriate for the story I wanted to tell. The cinemascope really allows you to enter into the screen. I wanted in a way to telescope the story, I wanted elements of the story to magnify on screen. I wanted the canvas of the film to become bigger, so we could jump more into the story. I shot it in 16mm and Super 8. It’s more grainy, there is less detail in 16mm and Super 8, so it’s more impressionistic and 35 mm can be really immersive and figurative. I knew that this process would be very challenging. All the choices were in the script. We chose the format very carefully. First I decided that I wanted to tell a story with these formats and then I went on to fit the story into that. The change signals also a change in time. The 16 mm takes place some years in the future. So the little girl who plays the violin is the actress that is married and has kids etc.And he is a bit older or more tired. There is this ambiguity about time in the film, which was intentional. That was the idea: to disorient you in a productive way.
Are the three chapters different points of view or alternate realities (revealing different things that could happen)?
We change the perspective a little bit. The idea was to show his perspective and her perspective and even in the 35 mm version there is a play of different perspectives. Sometimes him looking at her or her looking at him or sometimes the camera stays more with her or a little bit more with him…it’s interesting to find that balance. And when you have a shot of the two of them in bed the camera is like a bird’s eye, so the shot has equal importance for both perspectives. It flattens the perspective in a way and has a more god-like perspective. I just wanted to use these tools in storytelling, it seemed very interesting.
The sex scenes were very real, not cinematic.
That was all Anton and Lucy. They were great, they were so committed. When you have a scene like that only three people are of importance: the focus puller -very important job-, the camera operator and the boom operator, because they are naked, they don’t have a wireless microphone on them. You can’t mess the audio track, so the boom operator has to be very good. The director is useless. I didn’t interfere with Anton and Lucy: they know what they are doing, it’s weird if I interfere, it doesn’t feel natural. In those scenes I felt that I could still walk away and they would have done a great job.
Do you believe there are soulmates?
It’s complicated, right? The movie is informed from my life and only my life but the lives of all the people around me, from their lives too. I am 34 and I think it is a good time to start to make movies, because you’ ve accumulated a lot of experiences and you can begin to reflect on them in a way that is hopefully with some wisdom about what happened and about what could happen in the future. And I’ve been in a lot of romantic situations and so I think the movie is more than a specific thing that happened to me: it’s about the possibility of reflection, about the possibility of being able to remember and mis-remember and to really gain a certain outlook through the act of remembering.
Do you think that if we make bad choices it is difficult to go back?
I am glad you ask me about that. I think we have a way of distorting our memories sometimes and making them better. It’s a human quality of being able to deal with everyday life. Because if we didn’t have the capability or the capacity to do that, life would be pretty hard to live. If we didn’t glamorize our memories a little bit life would be (hard). Most things in life are dull and ordinary and painful and that is when you can start to do in your internal life: to try and soften all that, to tell it a different way because you hoped it would go a different way. You can live that in your mind, that seems very beautiful to me. I think that people with that kind of eternal life are fascinating to me because some people are very on the surface of everything. And there are people who are deeply internal and have a beautiful life. The characters in this film have a really deep internal life, don’t you think?
How did you choose the music?
Yes, there were some tracks like Shake it Baby, I had that in mind early on, I knew I was going to use it. The piano tracks by the Ethiopian musician Marianne Gabriel, that was a real discovery man. She is just an amazing pianist. And the tracks gave the film really a lot in terms of its quality or the melancholy. I love that jazz so much, it’s like outsider jazz, it’s from Ethiopia. The music speaks to the internal life of the characters. One of the things we hope for the music is to bring some of the internal life of the characters to the surface. It was just so beautiful. We thought about doing a score, but the music came and fit so well with the rest of it.
Why did you choose Portugal?
Actually, it was going to be Athens at one point. I was in Athens in 2014 with my last film, Double Play and I had this idea for this film in Athens. Then you had a little thing called crisis. It became apparent to us that it would be very difficult to shoot the film in Athens. Also the bureaucracy was a big issue. The main character is an archaeologist so we wanted her to go to archaeological sites in Athens. Athens is not an easy city to live in and also the bureaucracy is horrible. I am sorry to say this but the city of Athens was not making it easy for us. Unfortunately. At some point the option of Porto came up through a producer in Portugal and then we met with the city hall, we scouted locations and they were so warm and inviting that it became immediately apparent to us that this was going to be our city.
What are your next projects?
That’s a good question (laughs). I have a couple of finished scripts and now I am approaching actors, I have a documentary project too and I just want to keep going, I had such a great experience on my last film.
What are main themes in your work?
I think I am discovering it, I am discovering what my themes are. I think you should not be too conscious. You should always think back once you’ve made the film and say “oh, there are some similarities”. It’s not something you think about along the way, you just go with your instincts.
You must have hours of material from Anton and from the improvisations that he was doing. Have you thought about doing something for him?
I haven’t thought about it yet, because it was so exhausting to come to this place, but actually what I was thinking about was instead of having a commentary in the DVD, to have outtakes and other scenes that were not used in the movie, or even other editings that we did and in the commentary voice is me and a producer or me and my cinematographer and we would talk about the difficulties of doing that scene. It would be more like an essay than a commentary, but not using the film itself but the extra material. I did think about that.
* Porto will be screened on Friday 4th November in John Cassavetes and on Saturday 5th November in Frida Liappa screens in Thessaloniki Film Festival.