An Interview with the Director of Vesper (2017)
Keyvan Sheikhalishahi, the director of French psychological thriller Vesper, has kindly accepted my offer for an exclusive interview with him, his first in English. The promising director talks about working with Götz Otto, an actor of pedigree, having starred in Schindler’s List, Tomorrow Never Dies and Cloud Atlas, and the beautiful French actress Agnes Godey. He also discusses some of his directorial inspirations, which become apparent once you watch his brilliant short film Vesper.
Here is the exclusive interview:
Humpo Show: Let’s start off with a little bit about the film, what’s Vesper about?
Keyvan Sheikhalishahi: It’s about a woman who has lived a traumatic event. She tries to do everything to forget her regrets and what happened. The film asks the question of the courage in front of a tragic event. Will she accept it, handle it or will she invent another story and believe in it profoundly? Actually, this story could be a social drama, not a thriller, unless you add some suspens, an oppressive atmosphere and a mysterious plot… not forgetting the gun.
HS: Did you have actors in mind when making writing the film?
KS: I much prefer to write a film with actors in mind. I think about the actors when I create characters most of the time, and sometimes even, they indirectly inspired me. For Vesper, I immediately thought about Götz Otto, for severals reasons. He’s a very talented, truly impressive actor, I knew him when I was a little kid in Tomorrow never dies, and he had never played this kind of role before, so it would’ve been interesting, for both of us. As for Agnès Godey, I saw her by chance on the internet, it was love at first sight. At this moment, I had the story in mind but it was not really written yet.
HS: What was it like to work with Götz Otto and Agnes Godey?
KS: I contacted Götz Otto and Agnès Godey at a very early stage, almost two years before the shooting Agnès and one year Götz. I worked a lot with Agnès, she is very talented and very hardworking, she never looses sight of her goals, she has a boundless energy to get what I expect from her. It’s an enjoyable and rewarding experience to work with her. I had the opportunity to work with Götz who’s always busy starring in major motion pictures, he was very interested to play Walter. It was incredible to work with him because he keeps having new ideas and suggesting new things, always in accordance with his character and the movie. I’m really looking forward to work together again.
HS: Giving that you were 18 when working on Vesper, were there any nerves from you about directing Otto and Godey?
KS: It’s true that I could be nervous because of my age. But once you know what you want to see at the end of the day, you’re pretty concentrated to do everything to make it. There is absolutely no room to be nervous. Götz and Agnès are great actors and people. We got on really well, there was a real relationship between the three of us. Instead of being stressed, while I’m a little shy, I really enjoyed to work together. They’re open and take the time to understand me, I exactly know what I want, and in the same time, suggest me a lot of fascinating things. It was superb!
HS: Were there a particular director and/or film that inspired your directing style?
KS: My two favourite directors are Alfred Hitchcock and Christopher Nolan. I wanted to make an experience, the camera needed to be close to the actors, so that you see what they really feel. It’s what Amenabar did in The Others with a lot of talent, the camera is always in motion, never violent, and is very close to the actors. I like this way of filming scenes. As for the atmosphere and the cinematography, I was inspired by some Nolan’s movies, especially his Batman and Inception, but also by some Bond movies, the last one in particular. Technically, the first scene we see Christoph Waltz in Spectre is amazing.
HS: Thank you for illuminating interview.
KS: Thank you, you’re welcome.
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