For more than two decades, renowned Canadian choreographer Édouard Lock has created ballets that, in the words of La Repubblica, "call upon the traditional ballerina's rigorous points, but insert them in a force field that is violently anti-ballet." He has understandably shaken up the dance world with his predilection for discord, expanding ballet from an exercise in form and fluidity to one of chaos and unpredictability. Amelia may be the pinnacle of Lock's style, a work that is as aesthetically stark as it is physically audacious. Yet the greatest achievement of Lock's film adaptation is that, perhaps without precedent, he has created a ballet that seems fully realized on the screen rather than on the stage. Lock's already cinematic tone (complemented by David Lang's music and Lou Reed's lyrics) carries over and is brought into brilliant focus by Lock's own editing and by cinematographer André Turpin, whose quick cuts, shocking contrasts, and 360 degrees of perspective set the La La La Human Steps dancers in a space much larger than the wooden room in which they dance. Every spin is a flash of light, every arbitrary switch of dancers a gasp, and every close-up a study in shape and musculature. The constant juxtapositions do not conjure comparisons to classical ballet as much as to the electro-organic aesthetic that has carved out a niche in music, movies, and more of popular culture. This is dance for the digital age: precise, frenetic, and breathtaking in its quest for perfection.
Director's Statement Collapse
My intention was to create a film on dance without narrative or other extraneous storytelling devices. The choreographies were taken from the stage work Amelia and the camera was in turn precisely choreographed to each of the dances. The premise was to create a set of visual tableaux that would seamlessly flow one into the other in one minimalist environment, which would alter only through the use of lighting and camera angles. I conceived the environment as one uniform box of wood with rounded wall to floor joints composed of maple floor planks. The planks for me were like taking the stage floor and wrapping it around the dancer.
The camera had at times a 360-degree travel, which sometimes needed additional choreography to get the dancers in and out of frame at the right time. The film was shot in super 16 and then transferred to hi-definition for postproduction. I was really happy to work with André Turpin. I thought he lit beautifully and there was a real sense of experimentation on set trying to devise ways of executing some of the shots. The surround sound was crafted by Hans Peter Strobl. It was one of the easiest parts of the film for me, as I just kept nodding yes to his suggestions. I've often edited dance in films presented in the context of one of my theatrical productions or films directed by others (e.g. Michael Apted). This is the first film I've directed that is intended to be seen outside of a theatrical setting. A theater audience shifts their point of view continuously in connection to what they wish to see, even though they remain in their seats while they do so. Though their physical position remains static, they alter their virtual point of view constantly. In some ways this film reflects this observation.
About the Director(s)Collapse
Édouard Lock's career as a choreographer has spanned 30 years in which he has created works for some of the globe's leading dance companies and garnered international acclaim for originality, vision, and structure. In 2002, he was awarded the Prix Denise Pelletier, Québec's highest cultural award, and in 2003 received the Benois de la Danse for André Auria, which he choreographed for the Paris Opera Ballet. His film adaptation of Amelia premiered at the 2003 Montréal International Festival of New Cinema and New Media. Since its formation 23 years ago, La La La Human Steps has produced experimental works that combine balletic structures with choreographic, musical, and cinematic elements to create a sense of perceptual distortion and renewal. Its varied collaborators have included the Paris Opera and Frank Zappa.