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BFI London Film Festival


Running with both live and virtual premieres across 12 days in Octobe: 7-18 October 2020



Julian Schnabel talks about his inspirations and The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

The director Julian Schnabel talks about films that inspired him and the challenges he faced in adapting the script for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Let's start from your new new film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I've read somewhere that it took about 200,000 of Bauby's blinks to write the whole book and writing down each word took approximately 2 minutes. What were your first thoughts when you decided to adapt the script?

Well, I didn’t know all those facts, but I know that once I started to shoot it I had to really think about what the blink was. Because you can blink and is it just black, or is an image just a shutter? When you blink quickly does the image really go away, or if you are outside and you blink is the image red when you close your eye? There are many different blinks. So you start thinking about that.

What originally attracted you to the script?

The structure of how to tell that story was quite compelling and challenging to me…And the other thing is, my father died in 2004 and he was very scared to die. I thought if I could have taken the fear of death away from my father, then I will be a good son... So I tried to do that... I mean he died, I failed him but maybe my children won’t be so scared. Or I won’t.

You made films about various artists, writers and muscians: Basquiat, Before Night Falls, Lou Reed's Berlin. You are also a painter yourself. To what extent, do you think, this informs creating images in your films?

I would say that it informs it a lot. I have spent my life doing that and I came to directing movies quite late in a way, so maybe I did all the inventing I was supposed to do when I was a painter, so I am not trying to reinvent the wheel. So maybe some adolescent impulses that someone might have as a director might not be my problem because I am not an adolescent.

If you were to name a few films that inspired you to be a filmmaker, what would they be?

Andrei Rublev, The Battle of Algiers, 400 Blows, Last Tango in Paris, Seven Samurai.

What would you say is the importance of public film festivals for you as a filmmaker?

Well, I think that the people who are not corrupted by the money are the people that are in general running these films and film festivals, because they do it out of love and affection. Then they can have an impartial hand in fact in helping young films, or films that might be a bit more demanding, to see the light of day. And I think it is encouraging, because I think ultimately, these kind of films are the ones that inform the popular films, which should give some money to the little films that they stole all the ideas from…

What are you looking forward to seeing at this year’s festival?

I am afraid I am not going to see anything. I mean, I am very happy to show the film here but unfortunately I am going to be doing a bunch of interviews over the next couple of days and then I have to go to Paris. But I will end up seeing the movies that I want to see, if not today, I will be back another day to see them. 

Kamila Kuc
PhD Candidate, Birkbeck College
LFF Web Editor



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