Go Behind the Scenes of All 10 Best Picture Oscar Nominees

How do you go about crafting the perfect dream ballet? What is the most dynamic way to open your movie? How do you build a dance sequence centered around a character who has never danced before?

These were some of the questions that faced the directors of the 10 best picture nominees for the 2024 Academy Awards, which air on Sunday. Below, you’ll hear from first-time feature directors (Celine Song and Cord Jefferson), the most seasoned of veterans (Martin Scorsese) and many others about what it took to get a scene just right.

Greta Gerwig on ‘Barbie’


‘Barbie’ | Anatomy of a Scene

Greta Gerwig, the co-writer and director of “Barbie,” narrates this musical sequence, including Ryan Gosling’s performance of the song “I’m Just Ken.”

“My name is Greta Gerwig, and I am the co-writer and director of ‘Barbie.’” “(SINGING) I’m just Ken. Anywhere else, I’d be a ten.” “The thing that I can say most about this sequence is that this was the thing that I most knew what I wanted it to be, and no one else knew what I wanted it to be. Every time I look at this, it’s just the ridiculousness of how we did it, which is they’re obviously arriving on these pedalos on a beach that has no water. It’s a solid mass with these waves that are sculptures. And I had everyone in this scene pretend to be moving in slow motion except for Ryan, who’s singing. And I think I got four takes into it, and I thought, this just — is this so ridiculous that I’m doing pretend slow motion? But then I thought, I think I just have to commit. Now I’ve done it. There’s nothing else I can do. My stunt coordinator, Roy Taylor, who’s a brilliant, brilliant person, and he worked with my choreographer, Jenny White, because I wanted all the fighting to be somewhere between dancing and a kind of vaudevillian ridiculousness of a Buster Keaton or a Charlie Chaplin. I love that kind of physical comedy. So you see men tangoing in the background in addition to fighting. Because they’re Kens, they’re children. It all sort of goes together.” “Ah!” “Ah! Ah!” “Then we have our Barbies, who are sort of watching with their pink boilersuits, which I think Jacqueline Durran, who is the costume designer, she did the pink boilersuits because I wore boilersuits every day. And she was like, I’ve decided what the Barbies will wear when they’re taking back Barbieland. And I cried when I saw it because I was like, oh, it’s a tribute to me. So much of this sequence is the song that Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt wrote, which was not in the script. But I did ask them because they were writing the song that became Dua Lipa’s ‘Dance the Night.’ I said we need a Ken song, and I think it goes in the battle. And then they wrote this song from the perspective of Ken. And then I said, Ryan, are you up for singing this? And he said yes, ultimately. But initially, I don’t know. I think he was like, you never said anything about this at the beginning. But I think they sent me 30 seconds of an idea for the song, that I just loved. And then I was like, Can you make it 11 minutes long? Because I want it to go through this whole sequence. And then this part, this dream ballet part, Sarah Greenwood, who is a production designer, and Katie Spencer built this stage to echo the dream ballet stage from ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ because I love that movie. And that has one of the best dream ballets of all time because they have a dream ballet that is inside of another dream ballet, which, I think, when people are like, will anyone understand this? I was like, yes. There is a context for this. They’ll grasp it. And every Ken, every Barbie, is a dancer the whole time. And then I chose all the actors, too, because they were good dancers. Jenny White, who was my choreographer, she and I looked at a lot of different musicals, different dream ballets. But Busby Berkeley was a huge reference.” “(SINGING) I’m just Ken. Anywhere else, I’d be a ten.” “I kind of love that ‘we’re putting on a show’ element of this movie, which is very connected to theater and also the pleasure of making something in a childlike way. And we started with dance rehearsals, and I think it was a good way to put everybody in that mindset of it’s not about perfection. It’s about this joy. And they obviously embodied that. In a way, you want the audience to walk out and say, I’d like to go make something. I want to go play. I want to go set something up. I want to do a performance. And that’s how I felt when I watched a lot of movies when I was a kid, or theater. I instantly was like, I’m going to organize my own version of ‘Starlight Express’ right now.” “(SINGING) Nobody else Nobody else I’m just Ken.”

Greta Gerwig, the co-writer and director of “Barbie,” narrates this musical sequence, including Ryan Gosling’s performance of the song “I’m Just Ken.”CreditCredit…Warner Bros.

Christopher Nolan on ‘Oppenheimer’


‘Oppenheimer’ | Anatomy of a Scene

The writer and director Christopher Nolan narrates the opening sequence from the film, starring Cillian Murphy.

Hi, I’m Christopher Nolan director, writer, and co-producer of “Oppenheimer.” Opening with the raindrops on the water came late to myself and Jen Lane in the edit suite. But ultimately, it became a motif that runs the whole way through the film. Became very important. These opening images of the detonation at Trinity are based on the real footage. Andrew Jackson, our visual effects supervisor, put them together using analog methods to try and reproduce the incredible frame rates that their technology allowed at the time, superior to what we have today. Adapting Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin’s book “American Prometheus,” I fully embraced the Prometheun theme, but ultimately chose to change the title to “Oppenheimer” to give a more direct idea of what the film was going to be about and whose point of view we’re seeing. And here we have Cillian Murphy with an IMAX camera inches from his nose. Hoyte van Hoytema was incredible. IMAX camera revealing everything. And I think, to some degree, applying the pressure to Cillian as Oppenheimer that this hearing was applying. “Yes, your honor.” “We’re not judges, Doctor.” “Oh.” And behind him, out of focus, the great Emily Blunt who’s going to become so important to the film as Kitty Oppenheimer, who gradually comes more into focus over the course of the first reel. We divided the two timelines into fission and fusion, the two different approaches to releasing nuclear energy in this devastating form to try and suggest to the audience the two different timelines. And then embraced black-and-white shooting here. Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss being shot on IMAX black-and-white film. The first time anyone’s ever shot that film. Made especially for us. And he’s here talking to Alden Ehrenreich who is absolutely indicative of the incredible ensemble that our casting director John Papsidera put together. Robert Downey Jr. utterly transformed, I think, not just in terms of appearance, but also in terms of approach to character, stripping away years of very well-developed charisma to just try and inhabit the skin of a somewhat awkward, sometimes venal, but also charismatic individual, and losing himself in this utterly. And then as we come up to this door, we go into the Senate hearing rooms. And we try to give that as much visibility, grandeur, and glamour to contrast with the security hearing that’s so claustrophobic. And takes Oppenheimer completely out of the limelight. [CROWD SHOUTING]

The writer and director Christopher Nolan narrates the opening sequence from the film, starring Cillian Murphy.CreditCredit…Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures, via Associated Press

Martin Scorsese on
‘Killers of the Flower Moon’


‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ | Anatomy of a Scene

The director Martin Scorsese narrates a sequence in which the character Ernest Burkhart, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is cornered by investigators.

I’m Martin Scorsese, and I was the director and co-writer and co-producer of ‘Killers of the Flower Moon.’ By this point in the story, it’s become pretty evident that the people who’ve been perpetrating the disappearances and murders of the Osage Native Americans in order to gain their headrights, their oil money, are being investigated. And they’ve narrowed it down to whom they thought the weakest link would be. The one they know they could probably get the information from or break is Ernest Burkhart. And he’s played by Leo DiCaprio. “Well, here we go.” Since the characters are all circling around each other in the movie, and since the circle gets tighter and tighter, my drawing for the shot was simply a circle with an arrow. That was it. “My wife’s real sick.” I want it to become a kind of circular ballet. He gets up, he turns in circles, the camera circles around him, and as that’s happening, other figures are coming into frame from left and right. And as he pivots around and tries to explain that his wife is sick, which is an understatement, the camera keeps tracking around. “You got this, you got this all wrong.” Until finally, we get to the door, and he tells his little son, which is an improv, he says, go with him now, son, go with him. “My wife, she’s real sick!” That was one of the most enjoyable moments, laying out that shot. And then the interrogation begins. I had to be very careful by that point, because once scenes and stories like this end up in police stations or interrogation rooms, I find the images to become flat and uninteresting. And so I said, let’s be dealing with angles that are like boring into the characters. Not boring images, but boring, really focused on them. The angles would have to be head on. But what was interesting to me, is that when we cut to Leo, when he gets very tired, it fades out. But then it fades back in. And when it fades back in, you’re still in the same shot. We may have faded away for an hour to two hours. You don’t expect to come fading back in on the same image. That’s what I hope. “I need to sit down.” “Yes, you do, but you’re standing.” That’s when he really has lost his senses and he’s really, really tired. “I’m gon’ have to get some sleep.” In a way, what I had to do, was fight a tendency to maybe over-design camera interpretation. And in so doing, that tension, I think, is held in the frame. And then finally when it does move, it means something. When it does cut, it means something, as much as possible. “And did you put the explosives under the house?” “I don’t know nothing about no explosives.”

The director Martin Scorsese narrates a sequence in which the character Ernest Burkhart, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is cornered by investigators.CreditCredit…Apple TV+

Alexander Payne on ‘The Holdovers’


‘The Holdovers’ | Anatomy of a Scene

Alexander Payne narrates a sequence in which two of the main characters, played by Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa, have a tough conversation in a liquor store.

“Hi, I’m Alexander Payne. I directed ‘The Holdovers.’” I thought Barton Men don’t lie. Don’t get me wrong, that was fun. But you just lied through your teeth. “The story is basically about a bunch of students at an all-boys prep school in New England who have nowhere to go for the holidays. And eventually, the story boils down to the relationship between the very curmudgeonly teacher selected to stay behind with the boys this year, Paul Giamatti and one student in particular, played by Dominic Sessa, a new actor.” There was an incident when I was at Harvard with my roommate. And? He accused me of copying from his senior thesis. Plagiarizing. Well, did you? No! He stole from me. “A cook is only as good as his or her ingredients, and having Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa, both are capable of learning and performing pages of dialogue at a crack.” So you got kicked out of Harvard for cheating? No, I got kicked out of Harvard for hitting him. You hit him? What, like, punched him out? Nope I hit him with a car. “It’s about three or four pages of dialogue, and I wanted to do it in one go and choreograph it to the camera.” “At first, you’re fooled into thinking that only these two characters are alone at the liquor store. But suddenly you’re surprised at the end of the scene by the appearance of the liquor store salesman.” There you go, killer. “And he was played by a guy named Joe Howell who actually works at that liquor store.”

Alexander Payne narrates a sequence in which two of the main characters, played by Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa, have a tough conversation in a liquor store.CreditCredit…Seacia Pavao/Focus Features

Cord Jefferson on ‘American Fiction’


‘American Fiction’ | Anatomy of a Scene

The screenwriter and director Cord Jefferson narrates a scene in which the film’s lead, played by Jeffrey Wright, comes up with an idea for a new novel.

“My name is Cord Jefferson and I’m the writer and director of the film ‘American Fiction.’ The scene is our lead character, Monk, played by Jeffrey Wright, is sort of frustrated by the lack of imagination that people have when it comes to the stories that people are allowed to tell about Black life. And so in this fit of rage when one of his books is not selling and he’s sort of seeing the ways in which culture latches on to these kind reductive views of Blackness, he’s decided to write his own version of that hyper-stereotypical Black story. Also in the scene is Keith David as Willy the Wonker and Okieriete Onaodowan as Van Go in the scene that is manifesting before Monk’s eyes as he writes it in the Word document.” “Don’t shoot me partner. Come on now.” “So this film is adapted from Percival Everett’s novel ‘Erasure’ which was published in 2001. So this scene is not in the novel. If you’ve read ‘Erasure’, you’ll know that the entirety of ‘My Pafology,’ this sort of prank book that Monk writes is published within the novel ‘Erasure.’ I knew that that’s not very cinematic I didn’t want to show the character of Monk just sort of sitting there pounding at his keyboard furiously and I think that we’ve all seen that enough. And I don’t think it gets at the gravity of what the character is writing particularly in this instance, when you really needed to understand what it was that he was putting down onto those pages.” “Look at my face. Look at my midnight Black comple — no, that’s not right.” “What did you want to say? You can say it better than that. Right, come on. What do you want? Think about it, Van Go. Look at my face. Look at my cold Black skin and then look at your own. Look at my Black eyes and look at your own. Look at my big Black lips and look at your own. I’s your daddy whether you like it or not?” “Shut up!” “So I did intend this scene to be funny and I think that the characters play it that way. The thing that became interesting as we were shooting the scene is that Ok and Keith David are such great actors that you have this inclination to take them seriously because they’re such wonderful performers. And so I think that I wanted it to be comedic but I never had a desire to make that comedy obvious.” “I think now will come some sort of dumb melodramatic sob story where you highlight your broken interiority. Something like, I don’t know — I hates this man. I hates my mama and I hates myself.” “Yeah, the intention was to be funny but without saying like oh, this needs to be played super broad. Ultimately, I wanted it to be a little restrained and I think that, in fact, that makes the scene better.” “And I see eyes that don’t care what happens tomorrow.”

The screenwriter and director Cord Jefferson narrates a scene in which the film’s lead, played by Jeffrey Wright, comes up with an idea for a new novel.CreditCredit…Claire Folger/Orion Pictures

Justine Triet on ‘Anatomy of a Fall’


‘Anatomy of a Fall’ | Anatomy of a Scene

The director Justine Triet narrates a sequence dissecting an argument between two of the movie’s central characters, played by Sandra Hüller and Samuel Theis.

“Hello, I’m Justine Triet, and I’m the co-writer and the director of ‘Anatomy of a Fall.’” “You took the book’s best idea. How am I supposed to just go back to it? Do you realize how cynical that is of you?” “You can publish your own version. Say it inspired me. I’ll admit to it.” “So this scene comes very late in the film. And it’s the sound of a recorded argument playing in the court near the end of the trial, trying to elucidate the death of the man whom we finally come to see on screen. His wife is the accused, and this is the only time we see or hear them interact.” “I live with you, and you impose everything. You impose your rhythm, your use of time. You even impose your language. Even when it comes to language, I am the one meeting you on your turf. We speak English at home.” “I’m not on my turf. I don’t speak my mother tongue.” “So the character called Sandra and Samuel are played by actors of the same name — Sandra Hüller and Samuel Theis.” “— to create a middle ground so nobody has to meet the other on their turf. This is what English is for. It’s a meeting point. You can’t blame me for that.” “But we live in France.” “There was a lot at stake. We had to live up to the teasing of the scene. We needed to deliver a certain amount of information and to get to know the character of the dead husband. The jury and the audience listened to the recording. The clerk displays the French transcript of the argument on the computer screen, and Sandra is confronted with her own voice, with the intimacy of her marriage. And at this point, we drop into the scene. We see it. For a long time, we wondered if the scene shouldn’t remain sound only. But because sound has the power to give the perfect illusion of the present of reality, we decided to dive into it. And if you close your eyes, you can really believe that the people are there. You could almost say it’s the inner vision of the visually impaired child at the moment when he hears his parents’ voice. For me, it’s not a flashback. It’s an illustration of a sound, so it’s present. I wanted the viewer to have the very strong sensation of being projected into this intimacy. So we are in the kitchen of these people, and they are talking about very concrete things, their daily life, the way they organize their life and split responsibilities. They are professional in balance their frustrations. And the idea of the scene is simple — to show the whys of conflict and then violence between two people, a battle of arguments and ideas within a couple. So we filmed with two cameras not to lose any of their energy. We had to film their words, the words that come out of their mouth. It’s all about the actors, the truth with which they say it. And then there is a language. They speak in English, which is not their language. He’s French, she’s German, and English is where they meet. And even that becomes one of the subjects of the conflict, the language question. I wanted to shoot this scene in daylight, with strong light and the sun shining. Often, very dramatic intimate scenes are used to be filmed at night, as if intimacy were separate from the rest of life. And here I choose the opposite. And the contrast between light and violence is even stronger for me.” “I have nothing to do with it. You’re not sacrificing yourself, as you say! You choose to sit on the sidelines because you’re afraid, because your pride makes your head explode before you can even come up with the little germ of an idea! And now you wake up, and you’re 40, and you need someone to blame. And you’re the one to blame!” “They are never filmed in the same frame, except briefly in the beginning.” “This is the truth. You’re smart. I know you know I’m right. And Daniel has nothing to do with it! Stop it!” “You’re a monster.” “And just as this violence breaks out and becomes physical, the image is taken away from the viewer, and we return to the courtroom. We find ourselves in the position of the jury, and especially of the child Daniel, in a state of total uncertainty, not knowing who is hitting whom. We suddenly realize that we didn’t see anything because we were not there. We’ll never know.” [SOUNDS OF STRUGGLE] [GLASS BREAKING] [MAN AND WOMAN FIGHTING] [BLOWS LANDING] [THUD]

The director Justine Triet narrates a sequence dissecting an argument between two of the movie’s central characters, played by Sandra Hüller and Samuel Theis.CreditCredit…Neon

Bradley Cooper on ‘Maestro’


‘Maestro’ | Anatomy of a Scene

The director Bradley Cooper narrates a sequence from the film in which he stars alongside Carey Mulligan. The scene involves an argument that takes place on Thanksgiving Day.

Hi I’m Bradley Cooper. I co-wrote and directed ‘Maestro.’ It was very important to me, at the onset of this scene, that she be in a position of power. So, her on the windowsill, the light haloing her behind, waiting for whoever was gonna come in to be scolded. And then he’s sort of like a dog who knows that he’s done something bad, comes in, stays right on that side of the frame, almost out of the scene, and then slowly comes over, and then parks himself back in that position, almost trying to get out of the frame. And then I wanted sort of for you to be hearing this celebratory Thanksgiving Day parade going on, and seeing these floats go by, to sort of play into the juxtaposition between this sort of horrific scene happening and this joyous occasion outside, and for it also to be kind of comedic, in a way, and ridiculous. This was a scene that I wrote many years ago, when I first started to work on this project, and it maintained its integrity all the way ‘till we started shooting five and a half years later. “You’re letting your sadness get the better —” “Oh, stop it!” “Let me at least finish!” “This has nothing to do with me!” “Let me finish what I’m going to say!” “No! No!” “I think you’re letting your sadness get the better of you.” “This has nothing to do with me! It’s about you, so you should love it!” So this is the point of the film that everything has come to a boiling point, specifically for Felicia. She’s entered into a marriage eyes wide open in terms of how she perceived it would be, and how her husband, Leonard Bernstein, would behave, and now it’s gotten to a point where it’s encroached so much into her emotional state that she can’t take it anymore. “Hate in your heart! Hate in your heart, and anger for so many things, it’s hard to count. That’s what drives you. Deep, deep anger drives you. You aren’t up on that podium allowing us all to experience the music the way it was intended. You are throwing it in our faces.” “How dare you?” My fear was that we wouldn’t be able to maintain this frame for the entire scene. But because Carey Mulligan is such an assassin actor, it was effortless. We did this three times. This was the third take. And once we got it, that was it. Her main thrust is that he’s got hate in his heart, and he’s not up there on the podium doing anything other than teaching the audience that they’re not as good as him. It was very important to me that the audience, as they watched the film progress after this scene, know that that’s not really what she felt, because there’s no way that Felicia would have fallen in love with a man who has hate in his heart. But when we are trying to hurt somebody that we love, we’ll try to hit them where we think we can hurt them, and on the podium is where he feels, I think, the most free, and the most able to fulfill his potential. To me, when you’re not cutting, it, as a viewer, it should feel unsafe. You don’t know where it’s going. And if you start cutting, it just changes everything. “— zero opportunity to live, or even breathe as our true selves. Your truth makes you brave and strong, and saps the rest of us of any kind of bravery or strength!” But what I loved about it was just, and Matty Libatique is so incredible, the cinematographer, able to execute what I wanted, which was to have her feel almost regal. But she was, Felicia, in that moment. “If you’re not careful, you’re going to die a lonely, old queen.” Mommy, daddy! [CHEERING] Daddy! Snoopy’s here! Hurry up! [KNOCKING ON DOOR] You’re missing Snoopy! What are you guys doing in there? I love when they’re shadowed here by his ego. Outside the window, this Snoopy sort of represents where he is in his life. And then for her to leave him in the middle at the end of the scene, and he’s just there, you know, in the center of the ring, as Snoopy goes by. That was always what I had envisioned. [CHEERING]

The director Bradley Cooper narrates a sequence from the film in which he stars alongside Carey Mulligan. The scene involves an argument that takes place on Thanksgiving Day.CreditCredit…Jason McDonald/Netflix

Celine Song on ‘Past Lives’


‘Past Lives’ | Anatomy of a Scene

Two characters, played by Greta Lee and Teo Yoo, reunite after many years in this scene narrated by the writer and director Celine Song.

“Hi, my name is Celine Song, and I’m the writer and director of ‘Past Lives.’” [MUSIC PLAYING] “So the scene is between Hae Sung, who’s played by Teo Yoo, and Nora, who is played by Greta Lee, and it’s about these two characters who haven’t seen each other in person in 24 years. And they’re sort of reuniting in New York. And the focus of the scene is about the way that Hae Sung looks so lost and alone and very small in New York City, in the city that is foreign to him. It’s a city that he’s here as a tourist. And the thing that we’re, of course, trying to capture here, is a kind of sense of anxiety and excitement. It’s some kind of a mix of both of waiting for your old friend that you haven’t seen in a long time. And he doesn’t know what to expect. And we wanted him to look like a kid in the scene. You know, him as he’s touching his hair to fix it, because he just wants to leave a good impression. And we’re really talking about capturing this moment where Nora is going to shout his name and he’s going to turn. And this whole shot was set up for this turn.” [CAR HORNS] “Hae Sung!” “And then we get to actually experience his sort of stunnedness or awe as he is seeing Nora. And the way that I sort of wrote this in the script, is that it’s as though he is seeing a ghost, and she’s also seeing a ghost. They’re sort of seeing a ghost in each other. And not only is this ghost, a real person who’s physical, she’s also walking towards him. And it’s meant to be a little bit terrifying.” [FOOTSTEPS] – [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] “So this is the moment in the past for them where they were childhood sweethearts. And I think for that moment, that viscerally, you’re sort of transported back in time. And Nora here is sort of breaking the barrier between them and crossing over. And the sound design for this is also about New York crashing down on them as she reaches over to hug him.” [TRAFFIC] [CAR HORNS] “There’s very little dialogue in the scene. So, so much of it had to happen through the way that they’re living with this moment and trying to navigate how they feel. And this particular shot is something that me and my DP, Shabier Kirchner, were sort of pulling from a Kore-eda trick, which is what we call the swinging camera. Where here, we’re with Hae Sung, and we’re so happy to see him and we’re excited to experience this through him, but we miss Nora. So, the camera moves so that we can see Nora.” – [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] [MUSIC PLAYING] “And now we’re so happy to see Nora and we’re just happy to experience this moment with her. And, but we’re happy to be here, but we also start to miss Hae Sung, so there’s a little bit of longing that gets built. And then we move over and we see Hae Sung again. And we’re so happy to see Hae Sung. And I think that feeling is really the thing that we were after for what we wanted this to be. Because now we’re going to miss Hae Sung again, and we’re so happy to see Nora. And this is the kind of emotional state that we want to put the audience, of longing and also glad to see someone, which is sort of what the heart of the scene is. And of course, they’re so happy, and we sort of walk them out of the scene.” – [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] – [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] – [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] – [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] [LAUGHS]

Two characters, played by Greta Lee and Teo Yoo, reunite after many years in this scene narrated by the writer and director Celine Song.CreditCredit…Jon Pack/A24

Yorgos Lanthimos on ‘Poor Things’


‘Poor Things’ | Anatomy of a Scene

The director Yorgos Lanthimos narrates a sequence from the film in which the characters played by Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo share a dance.

“I’m Yorgos Lanthimos, the director of ‘Poor Things.’” “Understand we never lived outside God’s house.” “What?” “So Bella’s so much to discover. And your sad face makes me discover angry feelings for you.” “This is a scene that takes place in a restaurant in Lisbon, where Bella Baxter and Duncan, played by Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo, are having dinner. And there’s other people dancing. During that, the music attracts Bella, and just instinctively, gets up and starts wanting to join the dance. It’s a very funny, awkward, physical situation where Bella has never really danced before, and it’s very intuitive, what she does. He’s not a good dancer. He’s trying to keep up with her. We had a lot of help from Constanza Macras, who did the choreography. So the dance, because she’s done it for the first time, it just felt like it should be something quite primitive, slightly baby-like, but then it quickly develops into something that she wants to take hold of and lose control of her self. And Mark, in real life, is also not a great dancer. And on the other hand, Emma is a really good dancer, so we kind of used that dynamic as we were building the choreography. And it actually became funnier than what we thought.” “What do you keep doing that for?” “A man over there repeated blinks at me. I blink back for polite, I think.” [MUSIC PLAYING]

The director Yorgos Lanthimos narrates a sequence from the film in which the characters played by Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo share a dance.CreditCredit…Atsushi Nishijima/Searchlight Pictures

Jonathan Glazer on
‘The Zone of Interest’


‘The Zone of Interest’ | Anatomy of a Scene

The director Jonathan Glazer narrates a sequence in this Holocaust drama that takes place in the home of the lead characters.

“Hello, my name is Jonathan Glazer, and I’m the writer and director of the ‘Zone of Interest.’ So we open the sequence on a prisoner gardener, one of whose duties is to clean Rudolf Höss, the commandant’s boots. So everything you’re going to see in this scene was shot simultaneously with 10 cameras. We’re watching Hedwig Höss here with her friends having — it’s a typical weekday morning in the Höss house. The cameras just shot those women in the kitchen, is running simultaneously with the cameras in here shooting this girl. And she is a character called Aniela, who was real and lived and worked in the Höss house as a domestic servant, like so many of the local Polish girls worked in SS houses for them and their families. I’m following her in this sequence rather than the main characters, because it’s really one of the only times in the film where we can see, and connect, and spend time with, essentially, a victim of these atrocities. She’s not a Jewish girl. She’s a local Polish girl. As long as she keeps her head down and gets on with her work, she’ll be safe. So that’s what you see here, really. My direction to her, I remember, was to be invisible. That’s what she had to do, and to do everything as if her life depended on it. So every action is so carefully considered here. She’s really fantastic. The purpose of shooting — using all these cameras simultaneously was because I really didn’t want to have the artificial construction of a conventional film to tell this story — rather, to view them anthropologically, as if we were a fly on the wall, really, and just watch how they behaved and how they interacted, and not get caught up in the sort of screen psychologies that one does when one uses close-ups, and film lighting, and so on. Everything you see was — there’s no film lighting at all. It’s all natural light. No film lights are used in the film, and it’s all shot simultaneously. And the effect as well, I think, puts the viewer in the same time as the actors. So we are kind of locked in a sort of present-tense atmosphere, as if this thing was really happening. There’s nothing to process in the way that we normally process films. It’s a sort of Big Brother effect, really. And what she’s doing is she is obviously collecting the boots of the commandant. He’s in a meeting. He’s come back from the camps with blood on them, and she’s letting him know that they’re ready. These guys in this scene are two senior engineers from a crematorium firm called Topf & Sons, who built and supplied crematorium to the various concentration camps.” – [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] “The tone of this scene really is as if they’re selling air conditioning units. Because to them, effectively, that’s as much as human life mattered to them. In fact, they refer to them as pieces in this scene, not as human beings. And the map that he’s pointing to here was called the Ring Furnace, which was the latest design. They never got to build, but that was the latest design in crematorium technology. And he is hopeful that Rudolf Höss is going to buy it.” – [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

The director Jonathan Glazer narrates a sequence in this Holocaust drama that takes place in the home of the lead characters.CreditCredit…A24

Back to top button