Every once in a while a typecasted Hollywood actor goes outside their comfort zone and surprises everyone. Though some might think that there are always selfish motives behind some of these choices, often actors like being challenged and want to participate in projects because they love the material. Shia LaBeouf, unfortunately best known for being the goofy Sam Witwicky in the Michael Bay Transformers series (the newest being Dark of the Moon), turns in a beautifully moving performance in this Alma Har'rel (Bombay Beach) directed experimental music video/film for Sigur Rós.
Here is a behind-the-scenes:
I got a little flak for calling Rob Chiu's The Division of Gravity (which I now know was shot on the RED One) an experimental film, but I think it's safe to say that this piece is far more on that end of the filmmaking spectrum. Sigur Rós, the ethereal Icelandic band, started a project called the Mystery Film Experiment with their new album Valtari. Here is a description from the website for that project:
Sigur Rós have given a dozen film makers the same modest budget and asked them to create whatever comes into their head when they listen to songs from the band's new album Valtari. The idea is to bypass the usual artistic approval process and allow people utmost creative freedom. Among the filmmakers are Ramin Bahrani, Alma Har'el and John Cameron Mitchell.
"We never meant our music to come with a pre-programmed emotional response. We don’t want to tell anyone how to feel and what to take from it. With the films, we have literally no idea what the directors are going to come back with. None of them know what the others are doing, so hopefully it could be interesting."
Much of the film was shot with the Phantom Flex (with some RED mixed in if you look at the beginning of the behind-the-scenes), so if you'd like to replicate the slow motion look on an even smaller budget, you either have to take advantage of software like Twixtor or shoot with a camera like Sony's new FS700. The takeaway here is that if you listen to their needs and provide just enough support, professionals actors can do almost anything you ask them to do - and sometimes the best thing you can do is stay out of there way. Micromanaging can only get you so far, but in the end it's up to you as a director to understand each actor's process and about what they need from you to achieve the best performance possible.
There are two great interviews with the director Alma Har'el (who also happened to be one of Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces), so head on over to Filmmaker Magazine and Nowness to read them. Here's a little bit from the Scott Macaulay interview:
Filmmaker: The video is clearly a symbolic narrative, but how specific are the various elements to you (the lollipops, the butterflies, etc.) Do they have metaphorical meanings, or do they exist more abstractly?
Har’el: The process of writing something like this which is more of a dream then a narrative involves switching between the dreamer and the “shrink.” First you dream, then you analyze what things mean to you and then you dream some more but with more awareness and goal. More lucid. Then the actors come in and ask what something means and you have to analyze again.
Filmmaker: I understand the budget for the video was pretty minimal. What’s the secret to getting this level of production value and effects out of such a small budget?
Har’el: Love and devotion. The love of people for the music and for what I do. I could have never done this without the people who worked on it. Their love for their work and this project and their generosity with their time, money and equipment.
These are the other videos that have been released so far in that series: