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ΣΗΜΕΙΩΣΕΙΣ ΑΠΟ ΤΟ ΝΕΟ ΚΟΣΜΟ |
NOTES FROM THE NEW WORLD
του Βιτάλι Σάμιν
με τους Ρεμπέκα Σιγκλ, Νάθανιελ Τίεσεν, Νατάσα Μπλάσικ, Τζέρι Πράγκερ, Μαξίμ Πόλακ, Ντέβορα Λιν Ντίσινγκτον
Η ταινία "Σημειώσεις από τον Νέο Κόσμο" του σκηνοθέτη Βιτάλι Σάμιν είναι εμπνευσμένη από το "Υπόγειο" του Ντοστογιέφσκι και διαδραματίζεται στο Λος Αντζελες το 2010...
In the process of preparing for the leading role in a play based on Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground, a young actor is drawn into a world of intrigue, romance, and murder.
Los Angeles 2010 ... Where dreams and harsh realities collide. A place where Steven is torn between the loves of two women. A place fraught with danger where he comes face to face with the Russian mafia. It is a place where he discovers who he really is.
The provocative film “Notes from the New World”, a Winner of 13th Festival of Detective Films in Moscow, Russia - April 2011 to screen at The Peloponnesian Film Festival in
Corinth, Greece - Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 21:45
Life imitates art imitates life in this thriller of the human spirit. STEVEN (24), a struggling actor is hired by BOB (50), the wealthy owner of a small LA theater, who’s writing a play, a contemporary take on Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground. To gather material, he sets Steven up in a room identical to that of Dostoevsky’s protagonist, rigged with cameras everywhere.
Bob hires IRINA (24), a Russian call girl, to visit Steven and act out the part of Liza, the prostitute in the original novella. Steven and Irina are being observed, not just by Bob, but by SONIA (19), a darkly beautiful Mexican girl who feels a mysterious spiritual connection to the young actor and follows him home after one of his mandated Dostoevsky-themed street performances.
The two women—Sonia and Irina—ultimately find themselves in competition for both Steven’s affections and the leading female role in Bob’s play. But as we soon discover, their acting does not begin or end with the production. Neither of them, it turns out, is the person she claims to be.
Mystery gives way to murder and mayhem when Irina’s Russian Mafia cohorts enter the picture. Her boss and lover, MISHA (29), while dazzled by the prospect of Hollywood stardom for his girl, suspects her, Steven, and Sonia in turn of stealing an ill-gotten fortune from under his nose.
The characters’ parallel destinies converge with the premiere of Bob’s play. But after the curtain falls, the film goes on to answer one final question: Can true love, peace, and happiness be found in a world of ceaseless danger and deception?
DEVELOPMENT AND BEYOND
Vitaly Sumin had completed the film Shades of Day based on the Dostoevsky’s novella White Nights. It was time for the second film in his projected Dostoevsky/LA project. He had two Dostoevsky-inspired scripts completed: One was The Idiot, written in Paris several years before Shades of Day. The other was a re-visioning of Crime and Punishment set at the time of the riots that followed the Rodney King verdict in 1992.
But the creative process has a way of establishing its own schedule, and out of inspiration and perhaps a need for the proverbial change of pace, Sumin’s writing took a different direction in the form of a new script titled Love Game. It was a post-Orwellian tale that combined multiple strands of modern life: Hi-tech voyeurism, virtual reality, greed, and the diminution of personal meaning. Its characters were caught in a web, not of their own making, but one to which they willing submitted when they entered an electronically monitored maze in order to win a life-changing prize.
But with the ongoing tectonic political and social shifts occurring in the world post 9-11, it soon became apparent that the Dostoevsky/LA project could no longer be kept on hold; and the story that resonated most strongly with the new reality was Notes from the Underground, with its simultaneously sobering and inspiring themes of personal freedom and willful alienation. Working at a feverish pace, Sumin created a script that took Dostoevsky’s nineteenth century novella as the starting point for a strikingly original contemporary tale.
Only later did Sumin realize that a key aspect of the plot—an ever-shifting love triangle between the main characters—had been subliminally derived from another work by Dostoevsky, his epic novel The Idiot.
The script, soon to be titled Notes from the New World, had additional roots in two books outside of the Dostoevsky canon: The Magus by John Fowles and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The prototype for the plot-driving character of Bob in “Notes,” for instance, is none other than Fowles’ wealthy Greek master manipulator, Maurice Conchis. Some of Bob’s traits are also drawn from the character of Bill in the Love Game script, which Sumin wrote well before he’d read The Magus. To complete the creative circle, it should be noted that neither The Magus nor The Alchemist would likely exist without the influence of Dostoevsky.
It was in Notes from the New World that the inventions of Love Game would find a new and richer context. The concept of a bored, rich master manipulator observing human behavior in his private electronic matrix resurfaced with a heightened degree of humanity in the character of Bob Criden. But his surveillance activities were now motivated, not by idle curiosity, but by a passion to understand and create. While ethically dubious, this pursuit was in the service of larger, tangible purpose—to provide him with material for play based on—you guessed it—Dostoevsky’s immortal Notes from the Underground. The architecture of the story achieved a new intricacy as it presented a play within a play within a play; it became the dramatic and visual embodiment of Shakespeare’s immortal formulation, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.”
As further evidence of this truth, the story’s themes of renewal and betrayal were recapitulated in the very process of making the film. During pre-production, almost the entire cast was replaced during the extended rehearsal process (see “About the Casting.”) In effect they became placeholders, allowing the production to gel until the final cast could appear, fresh horses bringing with them a new springiness and spontaneity. And an additional benefit was incurred: as newcomers, strangers in a strange land, they were able to viscerally capture the lost, searching qualities of their characters.
Meanwhile, video clips began appearing on YouTube and the Notes from the New World website (www.notesthemovie.com) concerning the mysterious disappearance of Robert Hurley, Sumin’s co-writer on the film. Questions were raised about whether Hurley had engineered his own disappearance or fallen victim to foul play.
This is partially a reflection of Sumin’s irony laced humor, though the larger intent of this cyber-charade was the marketing of Notes from the New World, a la the Blair Witch Project. In this instance, however, the Robert Hurley disappearance exists in its own universe, maintaining no direct connection to the narrative of Notes from the New World. Taken together, the Hurley clips constitute a verite-style film of its own, this one eerily featuring the original, mostly departed cast members of “Notes.”
But that only underscores one of the underlying themes of “Notes”—that reality holds the possibility of endless creative interpretation. And now, with regard to the film itself, the possibility of interpretation lies with those who view it. Notes from the New World is ready for its close-up.
NOTES FROM THE NEW WORLD- PRODUCTION NOTES
In the Beginning
Vitaly Sumin decides to shelve temporarily his two completed scripts, Shades of Blood and Love Game to write the script for Notes from the New World. This will represent the second film in his Dostoevsky/LA project. He writes a first draft in three weeks, followed by several months of revisions and refinements. As the final script nears completion, he begins the process of securing financing from supporters of his previous film, Shades of Day. Drawing on his experience and contacts from that film he begins to assemble a crew.
Sumin meets with Rich Crater, his casting director from “Shades,” at Musso & Franks, the iconic watering hole of Hollywood’s golden age. Excited by the project, Crater offers his Hub Theater in for auditions and rehearsals--and also as a key location for the story’s “play within a film.”
Auditions begin. The first person cast is Jerry Prager, as Bob, the wealthy playwright and Dostoevsky afficianado who functions as the film’s “man behind the curtain.” Devorah Lynn Dishington auditions for the leading role of Irina. She does superbly but doesn’t match Irina’s physical description. Instead, she is offered the lesser role of Bob’s assistant, Michelle.
The other leading roles are cast and the first gathering of the cast and crew takes place. It involves a read-through and a discussion; all are encouraged to participate. This marks the beginning of a signature Sumin process—“actor’s boot camp.” The actors rehearse in an atmosphere of freedom and experimentation. Besides actively working on their roles, they are encouraged to read the four books that helped to inspire the script: Notes from the Underground and The Idiot by Dostoevsky, The Magus by John Fowles, and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Discussions are initiated on the themes and philosophical implications contained in those works and in Sumin’s script, which he continues to refine as the story comes to life.
During this period, three of the leading actors are replaced in a stringent winnowing process. Perhaps fittingly, Jerry Prager, the playwright puppet master, remains. The original cast members can still be seen in the clips on the “Notes” website which document the strange events surrounding the disappearance of Sumin’s screenwriter colleague Robert Hurley.
Location is Everything
Another necessary replacement: the main theater location. Through various machinations of a Machiavellian nature, Rich Crater has lost his beloved Hub Theater. An extensive search is launched. The theater functions almost as a character in the film—it’s an extension of Bob Criden’s persona—and none quite fit the bill until Dennis Gersten steps forward to offer his venue, Theater Unlimited, located in North Hollywood’s NoHo theater district. It turns out to be exactly what Sumin envisioned. Besides its architectural attributes, Theater Unlimited also possessed a history that resonated with the mood of Notes from the New World. In an earlier incarnation, it housed the Iguana, a now-legendary bohemian coffeehouse. Also, Peter Falk, whose Columbo character was based on Porfiry Petrovich, the detective in Crime and Punishment, was a regular customer in the donut shop across the street.
But the four week shoot is not limited to the claustrophobic confines of the theater and its adjacent apartment, where Steven undergoes the transformation into Dostoevsky’s Underground Man beneath the watchful lenses of Bob Criden’s cameras.
The action of the script soon spirals out to a series of stunning locations in LA and environs: a downtown plaza; Bob Criden’s palatial home, owned in real life by a young market speculator and movie producer; Westlake Village in the vicinity of MacArthur Park, representing a rich slice of old LA; a secluded beach in Malibu.
Dostoevsky’s stories take place in the imperial Russian capitol of St. Petersburg, with its dreamlike streets, squares, and palaces. As the second film in Sumin’s Dostoevsky/LA Project, Notes from the New World transports the stories—re-envisioned--to a much different city of dreams: modern-day Los Angeles. The first film in the series, Shades of Day, was described by one critic as a “hymn to Los Angeles.” “Notes” represents a continuation of that hymn in a new key.
The Car Accident
One particular trying scene was the out-of-control car that kills one of the Russia mafia members. Filming took place on a side street in North Hollywood, several blocks from Theater Unlimited. Early tests involved a car and a dummy substituted for the actor at the last minute. However, Sumin ultimately concluded that this approach violated the dream-like tone of the film; paradoxically, in its very explicitness it proved to be less realistic than the approach that was ultimately utilized—-near-focus photography, canny editing, and the addition of sound effects which combined recordings with Foley.
The carefully created aftermath of the “accident,” however, was realistic enough to attract unwanted attention in the form of a police car which arrived with its siren blaring. Despite the fact that an onlooker unconnected to the film had apparently called in the report, the film company was deemed responsible for instigating a false alarm. To satisfy the requirements of the moment, Sumin cheerfully offered to be taken into custody—but only after whispering some quick instructions to first assistant director Udi Looshi. The police car departed and shooting continued. For Sumin, his brief stint in the hands of the authorities was had clear precedent in the life of Dostoevsky, with the key difference that there was no concern about an early morning execution.
“Notes” and Neighbors
On another occasion, a pre-dawn shoot in the theater parking lot was accompanied by a barbecue feast. Several awakened neighbors were initially irate, but became happy campers when they were invited to join the festivities. Several of them later joined the cast as audience members for scene of Bob’s play debut.
Steven’s street performance as Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov in downtown LA were filmed verite style to capture the spontaneous, anything-can-happen nature of the scene. In the course of the morning’s shoot, Nathanael Theisen as Steven drew on his live theater background and became a little too entertaining, attracting a crowd that grew to the point that filming was becoming impossible--in the script Steven is performing to indifferent passersby. Drawing on his military training, Sumin decided to resort to a diversionary tactic: he had Natasha Blasick, who plays Sonia, perform a sensual Russian dance, thereby allowing Steven and the small crew to slip away and complete the scene nearby. Natasha’s reaction shots for the sequence were filmed later, after the crowd had dispersed.
Big Brother Is Watching
To gather raw material for the play he’s writing, the Bob Criden character has set up cameras throughout Steven’s apartment. Certain actions in the film are seen twice, the first time as they’re taking place and later on Bob’s monitors. Three different types of cameras of were used to shoot the monitor footage, creating inconsistencies in the resulting picture quality. Associate producer Taesing Yim recommended shooting directly off the monitors as opposed to inserting the footage in post-production. Sumin agreed and felt that this approach would also lead to heightened performances, since the monitor footage elicits some of the most intense emotional moments of the film.
Creating an Angel
There aren’t many effects shot in the film. Sumin’s sensibility draws on the tenets of magic realism, in which the entire film can be viewed as an effect. However, there was one key effect which necessitated entering the digital realm—it pertains to Sophie’s way of seeing Steven—namely, as an angel; in the script it’s described as a halo. After experimenting with a variety of digital halos much as one would try on various hats, Sumin concluded that all of the halos were too literal for the emotional quality he was seeking. They called too much attention to themselves. Then, one night, Sumin experienced a flash of inspiration—literally--as he observed the beacons lighting the sky for a film premiere. A new concept for the effect was born--light beams which seemed to come from behind Steven. The final result is much more striking and evocative than any standard-issue halo; the shafts of light are the visual representation of an epiphany and the mighty spirit of Dostoevsky.
THE TEN QUESTIONS MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED OF DIRECTOR VITALY SUMIN DURING THE MAKING OF NOTES FROM THE NEW WORLD
1. Q: What was it like working with the unknown actors?
A: Much better than with “known” actors.
2. Q: If you had to do it all over again what would you do differently?
A: I wouldn’t do it again. I would simply make another movie.
3. Q: What did you learn from directing films?
A: It’s better to watch films than to make them.
4. Q: Who are your influences?
A: Bergman, Truffaut, Kubrick, Kurosava, Hitchcock…
5. Q: What do you see as the future of filmmaking?
A: And you?
6. Q: Do you view your film as an adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s work or a
continuation of it?
A: Notes from the New World” is both an adaptation and a continuation of Dostoyevsky’s work. At the same time, it’s a re-telling. What’s important are the ideas and themes of the original writing. I’ve never been particularly interested in the exact re-creation of stories by classical authors, including the appropriate attributes of the corresponding historical time period involved. For me, every classic work of fiction is a template serving as basis for explorations of our own age.
7. Q: Beyond the storyline you have developed in your film, what is your broader message regarding the state of society both in America and throughout the world?
A: Well, we’re living in an unprecedented time of technological revolution and the fall of the walls. Hamlet who lived at the time of another revolution--the passage from Renaissance to Baroque--stated that "time has dislocated the joint!”—which I’m citing from memory. Whatever happens in a faraway corner of the world may become known right away anywhere in the world.
The problem is that to change a living human being in an evolutionary way requires a longer time, if it’s ever possible. Most, if not all, social revolutions that intended to quickly change the world failed but provided us with experience. On the other hand, the technological revolution made some dreams come true; in a way, the world has become one.
Steven, hero of Notes From The New World, who is assigned to portray a modern Underground Man in the Los Angeles of 2010, claims: "Not all civilizations progress at the same pace, but then the losers use bombs to make all of us equal.”
8. Q: Describe the process that you went through to develop a "life imitates art” storyline where the characters are actually living the modern version of the play in which they are acting on screen.
A: When an actor performs on stage, a process of identification with a character takes place. Depending on the degree and scope of the identification, an actor may need some time to “get back” and restore his or her inner self. In the story of Notes From The New World, Steven, a young actor at the beginning of his career, is asked by Bob, a mad Machiavellian-type director and playwright, to perform the part of the Underground Man in real life. Once Steven puts on the mask of the Underground Man, there’s no way back — he’s entering a world of mythical forces that will push him all the way through the labyrinth into the Unknown. .
9. Q: How is the action in your film juxtaposed against the futility of the Underground Man and his inability to change either himself or the society he blames for his misery?
A: Every common man of no particular influence or stature throughout history has felt that he has no real control over his own fate. In today’s modern society, however, the common man has the illusion of control of his own destiny through technology. And even though Steven is surrounded by elements of modern technology--such as the spy cameras throughout his living quarters being used to help him develop his part--he ultimately finds that he’s not the one controlling them. He only had the illusion of control. As such, he is really no different than the Underground Man that he is researching.
10. Q: DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS AN UNDERGROUND MAN?
A: From time to time.
ΕΠΙΣΗΜΟ SITE :
ΣΗΜΕΙΩΣΕΙΣ / ΗΜΕΡΟΜΗΝΙΕΣ ΚΥΚΛΟΦΟΡΙΑΣ
4/2011 (Ρωσία, 13ο Φεστιβάλ Αστυνομικών Ταινιών στην Μόσχα)
6/12/2011 (Ελλάδα, Φεστιβάλ Κορίνθου)
PHOTOS - POSTERS
ΣΤΟΙΧΕΙΑ ΤΑΙΝΙΑΣ / ΣΥΝΤΕΛΕΣΤΕΣ
REBECCA SIGL ... Irina – The Call Girl
NATHANAEL THIESEN ... Steven – The Poor Guy
NATASHA BLASICK ... Sonia – The Angel
JERRY PRAGER ... Bob – The Rich Guy
DEVORAH LYNN DISHINGTON ... Michelle – Bob’s Secretary
MAXIM POLLACK ... Misha – The Mafia Boss
RAYMOND ALVAREZ ... David – Sonia’s Guardian Angel
NICK TERESCHENKO ... Igor – Mafia Pimp
DMITRY KARPOV ... Boris – Mafia Spy
RACHEL DWYNWIYN GARLINGTON ... Angelina-Lolita
JULIA EMELIN ... Linda – Struggling Actress
LANDALL GOOSLSBY ... Brian – Steven’s Friend
TRIP HOPE ... Dan - Steven’s Friend
BRIAN MARTINEZ ... Little Angel (Bob’s show)
DOUG DANE ... Spectator
REX HOSS – Spectator
BRIAN A. MARTINEZ
Vitaly Sumin (από το μυθιστόρημα "Υπόγειο / Notes From The Underground" του Feodor Dostoevsky)
Ank Bergstedt (Executive)
Taesung Yim (Associate)
Gerardo Perez Giusti
ΔΡΑΜΑ, ΑΣΤΥΝΟΜΙΚΗ, ΔΡΑΣΗΣ, ΑΙΣΘΗΜΑΤΙΚΗ, ΘΡΙΛΕΡ
Λος Άντζελες, Μαλιμπού, Χόλιγουντ, Παλμ Ντέζερτ - ΗΠΑ