Elia Suleiman Interview

By Stutesman, Drake | Framework, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Elia Suleiman Interview

Stutesman, Drake, Framework

This interview took place in New York City, October 8, 2002, during the New York Film Festival where Elia Suleiman's new film, Divine Intervention, was screened.

DS: Divine Intervention seems to have a pastiche of genres such as films by Jacques Tad and Luis Bunuel, or spoofy sixties spy movies. It was interesting that this political film seemed constructed from some of these genres.

ES: I don't think so. This is probably your reading and that's fine. I haven't seen Bunuel for twenty years. Tad I've seen only after I made Chronicle [of a Disappearance, Palesdne, Israel, USA, Germany, France, 1997]. It was shocking for me to see how many similarities exist when I saw Playtime [France, 1968] a month ago . . . some of the moments were absolutely precise. The same. But then, it's only natural that you get two filmmakers, two people with similar sensibilides, humor, and use of frame and choreography. Really Uie kind of films I sucked on had no humor of this type. Ozu, Bresson, Hsiao-hsien Hou. Antonioni is someone who nourished me a lot. I wouldn't really think of Tad, Keaton, Bunuel. It's fascinadng now to discover this similarity. That I use more than one genre in the film widens the scope of all these references.

DS: Of the ones at you just mentioned, who do you think is the most dominant influence on you as a filmmaker?

ES: Influence or similarities? They're really two different things. The closest aesthetically to my filmmaking? Jacques Tad. I've only seen two films. Mon Oncle [France, 1958] after Chronicle and then Playtime, a few weeks ago. It's not a question of just films. It's the consumption of all the culture that I pass through and thrive on that makes the image what it is.

DS: Are there other media, such as music or painting, that are just as influential?

ES: Yeah. Temporality, musicality ... definitely. I'm really attracted to modern dance now. When I'm asked what I would do if it wasn't film, I think it's choreography. You can see that in the film. It's really what I indulge. It's the temporality of all the movements in the frame that are carried by the elements /characters. I try to create a rhyme or lack of it with the sounds. I compile an abundance of sound tracks. Listen to every bird, none of them are chaotic. When the father comes to beat the neighbor, there's a kind of bird. When he comes out, there's a bird. In the kitchen, I put a very annoying, very teasing, nasty bird that always prophesies disaster or laughs at it.

DS: I was going to ask you about sound. The film is full of sounds-squeaks, shots, chirps, clicks, all sorts of noises. Can you talk more about this?

ES: Every time you see movement, it's calculation; it's all preconceived. I calculate how characters A and B enter the frame, even which leg they enter the frame with, to create a temporality. It's a temporality of their body movement, the way they turn left or right. It's difficult for the actors to do the job. I rehearse a lot and make sure that there's utter silence. In postproduction, I highlight the sound for the humor or for the tempo.

I'm not saying that people have to deconstruct all the musicality in the film, but people often aren't attuned to sound when they watch film. I'm completely the contrary and when I use sound in film, including music, I put sound and image in the forefront equally. I think our eyes see on two fronts and our ears hear on two fronts. Just like different instruments. It's important to listen because often a lot of what you hear is outside the frame and that somehow extends our visual space. I make sure it's a parallel tableau. This is not a strategy. It's just a pleasure. I love to be attuned. I have a lot of discussions with the sound man. The amount of tracks I put on Divine and on Chronicle made the mixers go crazy.

DS: Is making the sound create a picture outside the frame very important to you or is it used to keep something together, so that everything has an equal place?

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Elia Suleiman Interview


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?