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Equilibrium Commentary
Kurt Wimmer

8. Signs Of Remorse

Transcription by  g3po

The guy coming down the stairs is Mike Smith, the Assistant Stunt Coordinator, who is also Christian's double, championship diver. Actually, Christian didn't really need to be doubled more than twice, I think, for two flips, but that was it. Mike was a great guy, a lot of fun, a very positive presence to have on set.

This kind of action here, this chaotic action, because it is sort of secondary, it becomes hard to shoot because it becomes chaotic in and of itself. I look forward to the time when hopefully I have a bit more in the way of resources, and I can actually choreograph and plan this action out with the detail that we planned some of the other action out.

This is interesting. This guy was just an extra I pulled out of the crowd because I liked his face.

But, being an extra doesn't mean that you're an actor. And, actors generally tend to act. Eventually what I did, after a couple of tries not working, I told him, I had to translate, "Listen, hold you breath.". So he holds his breath and after about 30 or 40 seconds of holding his breath I called, "Roll film!". And then we had action, and by that point he was less concerned with acting and more concerned with breathing. And I was able to get the correct, I think relatively correct, expression on his face there for what's essentially the hero moment.

This scene here, this was actually another one of those sort of fortuitous screw-ups. Originally Christian was supposed to walk down the hall and intuitively sense a door that had been hidden in the wall. Well, the art department halfway into the day that we were to use it showed me the door and unfortunately it wasn't hidden at all and an infant could have found it. So, that wasn't going to work so I had Mike Lindsay, my on-set prop guy who is always reliable, go with a hammer and make what are ostensively bullet holes in the wall. I have Christian walking down feeling the bullet holes and sense the light coming through one that appears through the wall, and I actually think it works a lot better than my original idea. Otherwise, I should have pushed in on that shot there.

Ok, this is the scene where he comes in and listens to Beethoven for the first time. Now I saw a lot of people online write in and say that this scene affected them. I think they even mentioned it on Ebert & Roper. And that surprised me, actually, because I always thought, and I still do, I feel that I failed, to a large degree, in this scene. That it doesn't have the power or resonance that it could have or it should have. I've obviously looked at this scene a lot and there are other scenes in the film that I feel, like, could have been done better. But, all those scenes I know how I would have shot them differently, or how I would shoot them differently if I could go back, but this is the one scene where I have no idea how I could have made it better. I just know that it could have been better. I just think I sort of reached the limits of my filmmaking ability in this particular scene. I would really like to see how a great filmmaker, like Milos Forman or somebody like that, would shoot this scene. Part of it does have to do with the music, however, I do have to say.

Some people, critics, criticize the fact that I used Beethoven's Ninth here saying that it was strictly a un-thought out rip-off of 'A Clockwork Orange'. That's not the case at all. The reason I used, I don't think by the way, that the first movement shows up in 'A Clockwork Orange' at all. But, the reason I used it is because it's the only piece of music that I know that has this kind of power. It starts essentially from nothing, just from sounds like an orchestra tuning its instruments, and in 30 seconds it reaches crescendo in a convincing manner. There are very few pieces of music that can do this and do do this, and this was the only one that I knew of. And obviously I couldn't spend three minutes or four minutes or more on this scene having this piece of music develop, so that's why I chose to use the piece of music that I did.

This is one of the few shots that I went back to get again. I generally didn't have time even if I wanted to, there would have been plenty more I can promise you that, but it was just one that I wasn't satisfied. It was very hard because I think it was a boom-up-dolly and zoom-in. Actually, it was a rack-focus boom-up-dolly and zoom-in, and obviously there are tremendous focus issues when you're doing something like that.

Letís watch.

Now, when I first started, before I even sold the script I had selected this piece of music. This was going to be Karajan's arrangement of the Ninth Symphony, done I think by the Berlin Philharmonic, and I carried it with me all through production. I even used it when shooting this scene. It wasn't until the very end of pre-production that my Post-Production Supervisor and Associate Producer in no time came to me and said, "You've selected the most expensive arrangement of this music in the world. It would cost $75,000 to use the 90 seconds you want to use.". Well, figuring we had $65,000 in the budget and we might be able to stretch it I said, "How much do we have?" and she said, "$1500.". Well, there was no way I was going to make that leap. So, I was forced to basically scratch around the bargain bins until I found another arrangement that sort-of worked, and I had to re-cut the scene, and lay that what I'm sorry to say is an inferior piece of music in. And, the scene, it never really worked quite the way I wanted it, but it works less good now.

This is my favorite piece of Christian's acting right there.

That physicality that he uses, he does so much with so little. I mean, especially in a part where he really isn't supposed to emote that much, I think he did a wonderful job. I like this speech from Taye, particularly because of the way he delivers it. It sums up his character, and it actually makes him slightly sympathetic. I think he does a really good job in this film.

Dogs. Hard working with dogs, getting them all to bark. Yeah.

Here's a good example of why you should light the guns in the foreground.

This is obviously a difficult scene to do, a delicate scene to do. I'm quite certain there are plenty of people out there who would argue that I did it indelicately, but the trick ultimately was to make it effective. To push the limits of what the audience could take in terms of the off-screen brutality of these dogs, whom obviously the audience loves, getting slaughtered. And yet have it still retain the impact that we need in order to make the end of this scene and the scene later in the film, where he saves the dog, work.

Interestingly enough my very talented sound editor Steve Flick's entire balloonist library of dog sounds really just didn't contain the kind of character I needed for the dogs. So, what we ended up doing was hiring a woman whose job it is, and she's a professional, is to characterize dogs for movies. And we came in, and I essentially directed her to be a puppy so all these sounds you hear, the puppy here, are in fact this woman acting like a puppy.