A Film About Faces
Interview with Orr Schulman, director of WIND CHIMES
When and how did you decide to become a filmmaker?
I always loved films, and I watched films all the time. All genres, ever since I can remember… So going to film school always seemed to me like a valid option, one which I chose to take right after I finished my army service (which is compulsory in Israel). I knew I had to study something, and considered either chemistry or film. I was really interested in chemical engineering, but eventually chose film. No regrets there, because I believe the cinematic medium is the best way to express ideas or feelings and share them with other people. Maybe I'll pick up chemistry some time in the future, I am still young. Sort of. WIND CHIMES is my graduation film at the Sam Spiegel film school in Jerusalem. I wanted to do an old school drama as my final project in film school.
WIND CHIMES feels very personal and authentic in its details and emotions. Where did the original idea for this film come from and how has it maybe changed with time?
Tell us something about the location – you manage to convey a lot of story and suspense while set in this rather mundane living room. How did you find it and how much time did you and your cast and crew spend there?
I think the location is not the important point, but the fact that we see only one side of the phone call. We have an unclear situation, something is missing, so we start looking for clues in the room, maybe we can learn something from it, but we can't really. It’s just an ordinary home. We want something to explain the situation for us but we don't get anything, except this woman going around getting ready to leave the house.
In fact, the location is a fellow student's apartment which looked like a pig sty until we got there, so we had to make it look like a family home. We spent a few days there taping tapestry on the walls and hanging some paintings. Luckily for us, there was also a piano there. But the fact it was old and neglected helped us achieve the feeling of a normal, everyday family abode. Moreover, I wanted the audience to get to know the inner world of the characters, and made sure nothing really stood out in their clothing or set design. I wanted them to be absolutely normal, like the parents of that friend you had in school.
I think Leora Rivlin gives a magnificent tour de force performance. What can you tell us about her background and how she became involved in the project?
Leora Rivlin is one of the best actresses in Israel, one who’s face and gestures I’ve known ever since early childhood due to her part in a popular sitcom that ran for three years, back in the days when there was only one public channel comprising Israeli TV. During these years Rivlin has won quite a few prizes in both cinema and theater, and these days she focuses on the latter. One night, while I was working on the script, I saw her at a theater, doing a Bertolt Brecht tribute. She made me laugh so hard that I just couldn't get her out of my head and knew that she has to take part in this movie. I really believed she is the only person who can do it. It took some time to arrange a meeting, and I knew I had little to offer besides that chance to make art. Luckily, Leora is a real artist: She liked the script, she liked the part and she decided to jump aboard. She was such a professional, so eager and so involved in the project… Such an actor really makes you a better director, I believe, because she brings so much talent and experience not only to the screen but also to the set and to the whole work process. Once she was in, I was confident I already have half of the film made.
Please tell us something about the style of editing and shooting and when you made the decisions as to how the film should feel in terms of style and rhythm.
This film is about faces, it's about a mother who is worried and one recurring situation. I knew it should have felt ordinary, a matter of day to day for those involved. I wanted the audience to try and understand what is happening inside the characters heads but I also wanted it to feel natural and real, so most of the time the camera is static, while we let the characters move and act inside the frame. Also, I wanted long shots with a lot of dialogue text, and the actors were good enough to "carry" the film on their shoulders in that regard. I don't like those movies that tell you: “This is good, this is bad, he is evil, now it's sad”.
I think the audience wants to think, wants to decipher what is going on and understand them without having to have anything shoved down his throat. So things just happen in front of the camera and the viewer can understand for himself what they mean. But I also felt that I had to give one good example for what might happen, and also answer the question "who is this daughter?", and that's why I chose to incorporate a flashback. It serves as the film’s midpoint, and if you didn't get the gravity of the situation from the subtle clues planted along the way, the flashback scene will hammer it into your head.
Also, when I write I try to give several meanings to every scene, so the flashback was important in that regard: It is serious, it is dangerous and it explains why the mother is avoiding her daughter. Other than that, now the voice finally has a face.
Tell us something about the reception of this film, especially on where it has been shown and what reactions it provoked.
The movie was screened on Israeli television because it was partially funded by it. The film got one good review in a newspaper which stated that it was "far better then WOLVERINE”, the X-MEN prequel which the writer viewed a night earlier. WIND CHIMES wasn't shown in any festivals in Israel, and I don’t know why. But so far it was shown in about a dozen or more international festivals, winning a few prizes for Leora Rivlin. All in all, its reception was good and I think people understand what I meant say and that's highly important to me.
What plans do you have for future films?
I have a few ideas, and am currently developing a feature about a mother that travels to India to look for her missing daughter (It shares some similarities with WIND CHIMES). Besides that, I’m working with a partner on a short film of 30 minutes about rape, which is a remake of sorts to a Charles Bukowski story. But now, with the mass protests in Israel, making personal films seems a bit less important, and I really hope things are going to change here for us. We have this thing called "Uprising Cinema", and it consists of public screenings in the middle of the street of films that have social themes, and it's absolutely fascinating. Every night has a new topic and we screen two new movies, often with the filmmakers who show up for the screening or characters from it (if it's a documentary). It's just democracy at its best.