Still, Peppy loves and cares for George, never forgetting her debt to him.
Here, Hazanavicius speaks about the challenges of making a 21st century silent picture, and the great improbability that said film would be at the center of the Oscar conversation.
What is it about the silent form that resonates in 2011?
The format allows you so many things. The way it works, how the audience participates in the storytelling process, you put your own imagination in
the movie. For every single person, that makes the movie very intimate, because there's so much of yourself [in it]. It's a great experience. It's
a very different experience. It's a sensual experience.
How does the silent form ask more of the audience?
The less you do, the more the audience does. I'll give you an example, which is really one of the first lessons of cinema you can have. In
M, the Fritz Lang movie, you see the [killer], he grabs a young girl in the city, and he goes with her into a kind of garden. The young girl drops a
balloon and the camera follows the balloon. You don't see any kind of violence. We just follow the balloon.
If you ask people after the screening, "What did he do to the young girl," everyone will say what [seems] worst [to] himself. … Because
everyone does the job [of filling in the blanks].
What effect does that sort of abstraction have on the overall experience?
[Audiences] know real life is not black and white. So they recreate the color. They recreate the sound of the city, for example, the sound of the cars.
Nothing is false, because you do it. You do it not very precisely. You just imagine it and you accept it. So you put so much of yourself [that] at the
end of the movie, the movie is yours for real.
You stick to the characters. You stick to the story. I think you're much more involved in the storytelling process. It looks
like it's very intellectual and you have to do a lot of work, but it's not. You do it very naturally. You have to remember that these movies were made
for people much less educated than we are. For common people, it was a very popular medium.
Did your directorial approach differ here?
The point that's radically different is how you conceive of things, because you have to tell the story with images. And you have to create the images
that tell the story, and you have to make things easy for all the people. For the actors, for example, you can't ask them to mime things. They have to
be natural. That's what they do. You can't ask them to ape the code of acting of the '20s. So you have to write the images that will tell the story
using the actors in normal situations.
The most challenging part for me was the writing process, because I had to be sure that I was able to tell the story.
In a way, you have a lot of limitations because you don't have access to too much complex story, because you don't have dialogue. In another way it's
very freeing, because it allows you to use imagination that usually you don't use and you wouldn't dare use. The fact is, it's so unrealistic, to show
people that talk and you can't hear them [and] they're in black and white. You don't ape reality, you create a show that is a show and knows it's a