Interview, Magazin

Fernando Lazzari about his short »Montserrat«

»Playing around with the sound, meaning and shape of words applies both to motion graphics and poetry.«

Fernando Lazzaris film MONTSERRAT is our FILM OF THE MONTH FEBRUARY 2017. He kindly answered some questions via E-mail. 

Poetryfilmkanal: The font you use in Montserrat is a googlefont of Julieta Ulanovsky. How did you come across this font? How did you meet each other?

Fernando Lazzari: We studied graphic design together in Buenos Aires University and have been close friends since. When I knew about the project I fell in love with it, since it had such a strong visual connection with the history of our hometown.

How did you develop the idea to Montserrat? Was it made for a certain purpose or is it a personal project?

I had made another type-based experimental piece before called Star of Betlehem and wanted to do a similar but more sophisticated piece. In this case, we had the font and the awesome architecture to use together, so I knew there was potential.

Star of Betlehem (2010) by Fernando Lazzari

Montserrat has a very distinct aesthetics. How did you develop the visual style and the animation?

The architecture itself dictated a lot. We shot on a hot January day in Buenos Aires and the very harsh and contrasted sunlight created a very distinct look with very hard shadows over the warm tones of the concrete. This, in turn, dictated how the type would look, as I wanted the type to look as part of the environment. I wanted the animation to look slow and dreamy, this has to do with the content of the poem.

What do you find particularly interesting about working with graphics in motion?

I’m a graphic designer and a filmmaker, and motion graphics is a way of doing both things together. The paradox is that when you start moving the elements of a well designed layout, you make it somehow worse and imperfect. Pure graphic design is meant to be still, so animating it can be a problem sometimes, and an interesting one.

The elements that are in motion are the letters, whereas the scenery is still. Why did you decide to work with film scenes that appear to be motionless?

It was a way to create an uncanny feeling. The poem talks about how maybe the whole idea of Buenos Aires is »no more than a dream, made up by souls in a common act of magic«. It was a way to create a world that looks halfway between reality and fantasy. The backgrounds, although still, are all actual video, so you can see small details moving, like a cable, a particle or a bird. We discussed this with our director of photography Matías Nicolás and thought it was the route to follow.

Your film almost seems as if it was the title sequence of a feature film. How does it relate to other films? Which films are you influenced by?

One of the sequences that influenced me quite a lot was David Fincher’s Panic Room (2002) done by PictureMill. It was the first time I saw 3D type so elegantly integrated with the architecture of a city. This sequence in turn was influenced by Hitchcock’s North By Northwest (1959) created by Saul Bass, who is the godfather of title design. He’s the one that started everything.

North by Northwest (1959) by Alfred Hitchcock, Title sequence

Panic Room (2002) by David Fincher, Title Sequence

Is Montserrat your first short film that is based on a poem? When did you start making poetry films and how did you get interested in this genre?

I’ve only done the previous mentioned Star of Bethlehem (which is not strictly a poem, but an experimental piece of text) and Montserrat. Because of how poems play around with combinations of words, they are a great medium for motion graphics, which is also based, in a way, on playing around with words.

Can you tell us what you like about the relation of poetry and animation?

As said before, playing around with the sound, meaning and shape of words, I see this as a property that applies both to motion graphics and poetry. Also, I find it interesting to think about a shot as a line of a poem. When you cut to the next shot, you’re jumping to the next line of text.

How did you come across Borges’ poem? Why did you choose to refer to the English translation instead of the Spanish original?

I had two elements already: the architecture and the font, but was missing a text to play with. I knew Borges could help, since he’s got so much material related to Buenos Aires. When I found Amanecer I knew it was perfect for this. I had to use only selected words from the poem due to length issues, but hopefully a good part of its content is communicated from this words. I decided to use the English version to be able to reach a broad audience.

Can you tell us more about the making of Montserrat?

It took quite a lot of work to transition from the initial idea to the final piece, finding the right shots, the edit, breaking down the poem, designing the layouts and animating them, compositing, and finally the grading and sound design. I learned a lot in the process, both creatively and technically.

Is there any poetry that you particularly like or that had a big influence on you?

Besides Borges, I’m a big fan of Alejandra Pizarnik* and would like to create something around her work sometime.

* Alejandra Pizarnik (1936–1972), Argentine poet.

About the filmmaker

Fernando Lazzari is a London-based director and motion designer with a strong, refined visual style and a unique combination of creative and technical skills. With a solid background in design, film, typography, photography and animation, his work has been recognised with multiple industry awards.

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Film of the Month February 2017: Montserrat