A Bomb (Une Bombe) (Canada | 2015 , 17 minutes )
Directed by: Guillaume Harvey
Written by: Guillaume Harvey
Cast: Philippe Benoit, Catherine Bütikofer, Charles Circé, Gabriel Després, Jean-François Gaudet, Benoit Rouyère, Noah Rouyère, Alice Tixidre
Maxime gets himself in a dangerous adventure when he accepts to make a bomb with his best friend Guérin. But he’s got no choice : it’s the only way he knows of getting closer to Guérin’s sister, the seductive Joëlle.
Interview:Interview with Guillaume Harvey, Director of "A Bomb (Une Bombe)" by Caleb Dawdy
CD: What was the impetus for this story?
GH: "A Bomb" was made at the end of my degree in filmmaking at UQAM. I had worked with the same editor and director of photography on two other projects before this one, and both were rather minimalist, so I was looking for a way to push our team further, to explore and try new things. I also had this bomb-making anecdote from my teenage years that I really wanted to write from a nuanced, at times both slightly nostalgic and slightly distanced point of view. I figured that the story would be a good fit for a more expressive form of storytelling, and that it would allow us to meet new challenges in shooting and editing that would allow us all to grow.
CD: What sort of influences came into play when writing this piece?
GH: The story is basically a remix of anecdotes, characters and relationships from my teenage years, so in a sense it was a rather personal process. I thought it would be interesting to oppose two very different kinds of forbidden experiences you can feel drawn to as a teen: illegal activities and sexual relationships. I don’t think outside influences played a big role on the writing of the story since it was based on my own life, but they sure did on the storytelling.
Like many people my age, I guess, one of my favorite movies growing up was "Goodfellas." "A Bomb," in terms of storytelling, is basically a love letter to it. Every time you watch Scorsese’s film, you can’t help but feel the exhilarating freedom it displays in its storytelling; the freeze-frames, the elaborate camera moves and long takes, the voice-over, etc. When you read the screenplay, you realize it was evidently written with all of those techniques in mind, and this is something I kept in mind while writing "A Bomb." Almost every scene had to be visually clear in my mind while I was writing, down to camera moves and how I thought it would be edited. And most of all, I wanted to emulate what Scorsese does best, to me, and that is to make the audience feel the pure joy of storytelling that the director feels himself.
CD: Editing seemed very important to the final product, did you find that your style of editing was a result of the story you captured, or was this something you set out to display for the audience?
GH: The editing in "A Bomb," apart from a couple of moments that were removed, is pretty much as it was written in the screenplay. The fact that we were working with a voice-over gave us very little leeway on this part, because we needed to explain a lot of things outside of the dialogue, and so we had a shot a lot of moments without it. That’s not to say the editing was an easy task, though. Valérie Tremblay is the editor I worked with on this movie and all my projects so far, and even though we’ve managed to usually stay pretty close to my screenplays, she’s really great at tightening things up, establishing a rhythm and helping me make tough choices. I owe her a lot.
CD: I’ve seen many filmmakers struggle with both a flashback format, and voiceover, however I truly believe you were able to successfully use both of these tools. How do you feel you achieved that?
GH: In a film school setting, when anybody says "voiceover", the warnings come from everywhere, so I had to answer that kind of concern very early on, during the writing process. The main problem to solve was to make sure that there was a real character behind that voice, with real motives and emotions. I do have some bits here and there that are used to clarify what we’re seeing (they’re not my favorite), but I made sure there was always a tone in the voice or in the words the narrator was using to make sure his opinion or his feelings towards the story were made clear. Those feelings also had to be nuanced and sometimes ambiguous, so that the audience wouldn’t only be curious about what was shown from the past, but also to make sure they cared about the question we only solved at the end: "Why is this guy telling us all this?"
CD: What are some of your influences in cinema and storytelling overall?
GH: My influences are rather diverse, as every project I’ve directed so far is really different, but I am mostly drawn to filmmakers who are great at establishing a certain distance between the audience and the characters (allowing us to observe and sometimes have a laugh at them) without sacrificing too much empathy. The names that first come to mind to this effect are Scorsese and the Coen brothers. My next movie is a satire inspired by Luis Buñuel, Paul Verhoeven and the Zucker-Abrahams movies, so whatever works, I guess.
CD: What were some struggles you faced when producing this film?
GH: I’d say the hardest thing for us was to find the locations, because most of our projects before this one took place in one or two spots. We had to find permits for places that would fit the look and where we could have a bomb explode, or put stuff on fire, so that was a little daunting. The casting was also pretty tough, because we wanted young actors who would be able to play with a lot of written dialogue. The main part was cast just a couple of weeks before shooting and we were really lucky to find him.
CD: Were there any “happy accidents” you can talk about?
GH: I recorded the first version of the voiceover, and we had a lot of trouble with it for multiple reasons. I’m not an actor, but some people felt that it sounded very personal and that it worked. I, on the other hand, felt that I couldn’t judge it fairly because I don’t like the sound of my voice, and I also felt that it sounded too different from the voice of the actor playing the younger version of the narrator, Noah Rouyère. Noah had a very peculiar accent that I felt had to be found in the older voice. We tried to record Noah’s voice and to put some effects on it to make it sound older but nothing worked. In the end, we had almost settled for my voice when I ended up asking Noah if his father sounded like him. He told me his father had the exact same accent he had. After speaking with him on the phone, my mind was made up; he had to record the voiceover. So that’s what you hear in the movie, the dad playing the son who got older.
CD: What can we expect from you or your team in the future? Any works in progress currently?
GH: We’re currently finishing up post-production work on "Waiting for Pascal," which is a futuristic satire on the very paradoxal world of "creatives" that I have co-written and co-directed with my best friend. It’s a really weird and conflicted movie about issues we both had on our mind for a long time. It’s very different from what I’ve made so far, and brought its lot of new issues and challenges. That’s what we were looking for, too!
I’m also working on another more personal screenplay, though, which has a little more in common with the bittersweet tone of "A Bomb" and that I hope to shoot next winter. I’ll go back to my own life experiences from time to time, but I’m not interested in making the same project twice.