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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



Master Class with Roland Joffé at Marrakech Film Festival


Last week during the 2011 Festival du Film de Marrakech, the legendary English/French director Roland Joffé gave a master class to attentive fans. Joffe has directed such classics as THE KILLING FIELDS (1984), THE MISSION (1986), CITY OF JOY (1992) and VATEL (2000). When asked in particular about his most celebrated masterpiece- THE MISSION- Joffe expressed the following:


Roland Joffé:

When I made THE MISSION (1986) and worked with Robert De Niro, of course De Niro is a grand star but I had a problem with him from the start. I should have had dinner with him but at the beginning of the dinner I said to him: ‘I am a debutant but I am the director. It is necessary that you do what I demand you to do. It’s me who decides.' He responded to me: ‘No one has ever dared to say that to me. That’s the end of our dinner.’ Then he got up and left. So, I decided to return to my room. The same night I received a telephone call from Robert. He said: ‘Roland, it’s De Niro. You are completely right all the time. I will listen to you.’ He had understood the relationship between acting and reality. For me he is really a great man. When I want my actor to interpret a role I make him encounter the person of the role. In the case of the Indians in THE MISSION they are real Indians. They had never seen white people before the film.

The film shows the question but doesn’t give an answer to the problem at hand. Rather, it’s the spectator that gives the answer. My point of view doesn’t count. It’s the spectator’s point of view that counts. The spectator takes the place of the character. No ideas can possibly better the mind of the creator. The camera gives a look like an infant. Everything should be new, everything should be fascinating. The movement of the camera is the emotion and thus the importance of the story-board. Music is the subconscious of the film. With the music one cannot be intellectual. The music is the intelligence. I am always in battle with the chief operators of the camera (D.O.P.) because I choose all the lenses, the lights, the movement of the camera because for me it’s the emotion and I cannot leave this responsibility to anyone else.

RJ: 'If the image is the body of film, the music is its soul'.  


-transcribed from French to English by Vanessa McMahon December 14, 2011.