Ready for a deep-dive into 1917, the latest film from Sam Mendes? A new, unusually long featurette goes behind-the-scenes of the World War I epic, with Mendes talking about the origins of the movie, and cinematographer Roger Deakins delving into how he pulled off the film’s impressive “one-shot” set-up. Watch the 1917 featurette below.
1917 is a technical marvel, but it’s also a powerful film overall. The entire movie is designed to look like it was done in one very long take, and while that could’ve come across as a gimmick, director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins manage to pull it off, and make an emotional saga in the process. As I said in my review:
Much is going to be made about the technical elements of 1917, but it’s important to acknowledge that the film is more than a series of impressive camera angles. The script, by Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, is often disarmingly powerful in the way it presents both the horrors of war and the glimpses of beauty lurking beneath. 1917 is a consistently frightening film, full of landscapes littered with corpses wrapped in barbed-wire, dotted with burning houses, and brimming with rats feeding on the dead. It’s like a long one-take journey through the bowels of hell. We feel the weight of all that nightmarish imagery, and we also feel the weight of it on our characters. As Schofield, MacKay, giving a quiet, devastating performance, fully embodies weariness – we feel the emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion placed on him the further he goes.
The featurette above covers both Mendes’ inspiration for making the film – his grandfather fought in World War I – and how the one-shot trick was pulled off. We see lots of behind-the-scenes footage of cameras being moved about on wires, or being run from one spot to the next by camera operators. The camera is always moving in 1917, propelling us forward with the characters. My favorite part of this featurette examines how the best scene in the film – where flares are constantly going off and casting shadows in a bombed-out town – was created. Deakins and company used models to figure out just how the shadows fell, and timed the flares themselves to get the exact length of the lighting. It all sounds very tedious, but the end result is perfect.
In 1917, “At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield (Captain Fantastic’s George MacKay) and Blake (Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers—Blake’s own brother among them.”
1917 opens in limited release on December 25, 2019 and wide on January 10, 2020.
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