Go blind. Try, search, make mistakes. Stumble upon misunderstanding, criticism, without much hope for the outcome. At the same time be eager to reach your goals and love what you do. So as you can describe life, you can also describe bringing up a child. Want to complicate the situation? Imagine that you are a father, and you must raise a teenaged daughter without the help of her mother, in addition to dealing with life-threatening conditions. Casey Affleck, who plays the role of such a single father in his film Light of My Life, solves this problem in a duet with young Anna Pniowsky.
Affleck’s film is a new take on the well-known “apocalyptic” genre in science fiction: as a result of an unknown illness, all women on the planet are dying. All except the lead protagonist’s little daughter.
“Science fiction stories are a favorite of mine so they find their way in a lot of things I do. First I came up with this bedtime story about animals that couldn’t go on Noah’s Ark. I wrote that as an animated film but nobody wanted to make it, so then I added the scene of a parent telling it to his kid”, explained Affleck during a discussion on KVIFF 2019.
According to the director, it wouldn’t be possible for him to present this story in a different genre, so he just tried to make it unique.
“This movie, I think,couldn’t be done in a more traditional or conventional way. Instead of it I tried to find something that hasn’t been done yet, like something instead of nuclear apocalypse or natural disasters everywhere. I was trying to make it more real, like a sort of experience we’ve had, but in a larger scale.”
Initially, this story should not have been based on a gender question. Affleck planned to make a film about father and son, but his children decided that he wanted to write about them, and were not happy with it. Then, instead of a son, a daughter appeared – one of Affleck’s nieces became the prototype for his lead character, at least to some extent.
Union from the first scene
At the time of the shooting, Anna Pniowsky was still a child, but she approached her work in a very adult way.
“When I found Anna, she was able to play scenes and also still maintain some level of naturalness, she could do a colorful scene, but also stay herself”, says Affleck. “I wish we had made something special and magical, but no, she is just awesome, she came up and understood what was the role. She did all the work, she prepared well, so there wasn’t any trick there. “
It is not surprising that there were no difficulties: Anna herself admitted that it was very important for her to get experience in filming with Casey Affleck. The secret of her natural playing was also simple.
“The thing is,when you are playing a character – I’m speaking about myself, I don’t know about others – I’m trying to see myself as this character, try to put some of my characteristics into it. In the movie I thought this girl is like every teen taught by her father. Another thing, when you put youself into a character, you can imagine how it would be if it were your life. Every day I was just saying to myself – this is real, this is happening, I’m not playing. As we filmed more, I said: «Ok, how would it be if I were in that situation?»
Real views on life to be heard
The credibility of the relationship was also imparted by unhurried, elaborate dialogue, much of which was on difficult topics. There was, for example, the father’s attempt to explain where children come from and conversations about what a real woman should look like. Affleck admitted: he wanted his real views on life to be heard in the film.
“I have always despised these beauty magazines, the way they perpetuate ideas about beauty for women and for men, which are very narrow and old-fashioned”, he said. “Having two little kids with famous people in the family they can walk into a grocery, see their uncle on the cover and it says something that’s a lie…”
Later, Anna noted that some of the lines that sounded awkward in the film actually felt that way. Affleck didn’t agree with it. “For me it didn’t feel so awkward as I had said nothing that parents wouldn’t say to a child”.
It’s necessary to say that a director gladly leads conversations and always looks convincing: both when his film character tells Anna a bedtime story, and when he discusses the film with journalists.
To make something that would reflect the way people watch things now
“I actually like to talk to journalists about movies. It takes you so much time to make a movie and then usually you can show it several times, and an audience claps a little bit. And when journalists actually see your movie and want to talk about it, it’s the best thing in the world.”
It is yet unclear what fate awaits Light of My Life, compared with the mockumentary film I’m Still Here, which received conflicting reactions from viewers.“I was thinking about making something that would reflect the way people watch things now”, recalls Affleck. Actually, when shooting, he always thinks about the viewer.
In a century when everyone can make a film, whether by camera or by iPhone, it is important to be able, as he says, to maintain contact with the viewer, to make him literally dive into what is happening on the screen, as into reality.
“I do really believe in the power of art. Key is in making things, key is in telling stories. It’s great if it provokes conversations and brings people together”.
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