Rapping hotdogs, frustrated video game creators, a Russian submarine. These are just a few of the people and places you'll encounter in the Vimeo Staff Favorites for June 2014. It's a far-flung mix this month, and these videos will leave you both slightly disturbed and immensely delighted.
Notably, in this month's selection is "Deeper Than Yesterday," which premiered at Sundance in 2011 and won the Audience Award. On its surface, "Deeper Than Yesterday" has some of the trappings of a summer blockbuster (not least of which is a real submarine), but it is ultimately an intimate story of one sailor's struggle to stay sane. Lucky for us, we had a chance to chat with its director, Ariel Kleiman:
What was the inspiration for this film? What made you decide to make a film about a Russian submarine?
It all came together in a pretty wacky and fortuitous way. The initial spark was this photograph of a woman in a cocktail dress floating on top of the ocean. As I started writing it quickly became about the group of men who discover her. Initially, it was written about a group of lonely fisherman but after months of searching we couldn’t convince a large fishing boat to allow us to film on it.
I remember I was feeling really down about hitting this dead end. I was at dinner with my parents and for some reason, The Beatles' “Yellow Submarine” was playing on the TV. I think in an attempt to cheer me up my dad joked, "Why don’t you set it on a submarine?" The next day, after a couple of phone calls, we bizarrely found a derelict submarine just an hour from Melbourne.
The idea of placing the same story in a submarine and observing a large group of men in such a confined industrial space sent my mind racing. The setting instantly allowed the film to be so much more distilled and potent.
As soon as I started writing it for a submarine, and the story started taking shape, it always felt like it had to be in Russian. Culturally speaking, Australian men are not know for their ability to express their emotions. Which is interesting in its own right, but for this film, the lyrical qualities of the Russian language and their masculine bravado gave the story the mythic feelings it deserved.
Are you fluent in Russian? If not, how did you go about directing Russian actors? What was that like?
Yeah, my parents and brother immigrated from Odessa, USSR in the mid 70s. I was the first generation in my family born in Australia. I speak fluent Russian, though I’m pretty sure I have a really goofy accent when I do. The actors would consistently laugh at me when I would try to chat to them in Russian. I have a feeling that my Russian accent is like the equivalent of Borat speaking English.
I wrote the script in English and the actors made the words their own. Usually, the way Russians are portrayed in movies (especially American ones) is so artificial and cheesy. Even though the story for "Deeper" was kind of over the top and surreal, it was important to us to make the Russian dialogue and performances feel raw and grounded.
How did you gain access to the set?
The sub was moored in the bay of a small town called Hastings. A private group had bought it from the navy and were hoping to make a naval museum out of it. We got to know the guys who owned it and they were such lovely men. In the end, they allowed us shoot on it for two consecutive weekends.
They became huge supporters of the project. They took great joy in seeing the submarine come back to life. I also got the feeling they relished any opportunity to spend their weekends hanging out on the submarine and away from their wives.
Is shooting a film on a submarine as complicated as it seems?
It proved to be even more complicated than what it seemed. I still think it's a miracle the film actually got made in the time we had. The rule we came up with was that everything is 10x slower on sub than on land.
Do you see it as a very particular story, or are the themes self-consciously drawn from things/situations you've noticed in your life?
It’s a film of extremes. The setting, the actions, the emotions. Though I hope that there’s something at the center of the story that audiences can relate to. Amongst other things, it was always about a group of men losing perspective, and more specifically, about one man's fight to retain his.
The submarine is a heightened setting, but we are all in daily confined situations and routines with the same people. Whether it be work, school, relationships, housemates etc. People losing perspective in such environments and their subsequent actions are endlessly fascinating.
The film, specifically the scene where the body is discovered, feels a bit like magical realism. Were you inspired by any particular writers or literary genres when writing the screenplay?
I was reading a lot of Italo Calvino short stories at the time and I’m sure they seeped into my subconscious. All my films have been drawn to surrealism and absurdity. The challenge on "Deeper" was to have it start like a semi-social-realist film and slowly elevate into something more mythic and romantic.
Any videos on Vimeo that you’re a fan of or influenced an aspect of the film?
I remember vividly a friend showed me Romain Gavras’s music video for Justice's “Stress" in the week leading up to shoot "Deeper." I'm not sure if it was a direct influence on the film, but I certainly found it to be seriously inspired filmmaking.
What are you working on these days?
I'm currently in the final stages — sound design and music — of my first feature film. I wrote the film with my long-time girlfriend and collaborator Sarah Cyngler. It’s called "Partisan" and stars Vincent Cassel. I can’t wait to let it loose and share it with the world soon.+ More from the Staff Blog Archive