"One City. One Day. Five lives which will change forever."
Click through for our Interview with Moscow Never Sleeps Writer/Director Johnny O'Reilly.
Interview with Writer/Director Johnny O'Reilly –
We used a range of digital cameras to capture the footage including Red, Alexa and Canon Mark 5. The drone footage was all captured using the Canon. I wanted the audience to feel that they had seen the real Moscow. So, it had to be true and naturalistic. There was never going to be any stylistic colorization. Films that aim for verisimilitude tend to be shot like documentaries with a lot of shaky handheld camera work. I never wanted this. For a start, you can convey meaning through composition and camera movement alone, so I wanted every frame to be properly composed and every camera move to be purposeful and meaningful. Also, Moscow is a classical city of great scale. It needed the wide screen treatment. The fireworks were created using CGI and we shot many of the crowd scenes during Moscow’s real city day.
The stories in the film focus on the intimate lives of people in Moscow, but I wanted to touch on the way society is run by revealing something about the current political situation in Russia. For foreigners, the most bizarre element of Russian society is its politics. The idea that government officials can so openly and brazenly commit fraud is something that sets Russia apart from the West. In real life, there are many incidences of Russian businessmen whose assets get stolen by predatory bureaucrats and I wanted to reveal this as a way to highlight the feudalism of Russia’s political system.
The film was very well received in Russia, although elements within the Russian Ministry of Culture did try to suppress the film – possibly because of the storyline featuring corrupt government officials. There’s a faultline in Russian public opinion that goes back centuries to the ancient debates between the Slavophiles and Westernizers. Today it’s characterised as Pro or Anti Putin. Neither side agrees on anything. The majority of Russian audiences applauded the film for what it perceived as reflecting certain truths about Russian society. There was, however a vocal minority which was aggrieved at the idea that a foreigner could come to Russia and make a film that was deemed “Unpatriotic” I never wanted to whitewash Russia with this film. Nor did I want to throw it under the bus. I just wanted to put it in a frame and try as sincerely as possible to reflect what I had learnt about the country. I wanted to show international audiences what Moscow is really like because so much of the information they receive about Russia comes thought the filter of geo-politics. All they hear about is Putin, spies, wars and vodka. I felt that the multi-narrative structure would be the best way to do this. By focusing on characters of different ages and socio-economic backgrounds, I wanted to provide a wide snapshot of the city. In doing so, I hoped to establish common themes and highlight universal human values.
In life, we’re focussed on our work. We’re looking at screens. We forget that what’s important is our connection with other humans. Love and family are things we always take for granted while we’re too busy trying to increase our status or further our career. We’re asleep to this reality. Moscow city is a cauldron of aggregated emotions. It’s a turbine of 24-hour traffic, a pinball machine that never slows down or stops. It gives its inhabitants their energy. We fall asleep though, when we forget about what’s important in our lives.
Having made two Russian films, I now need to focus on something in my own language. I’m currently developing a new project entitled Arrangements which is a dark comedy about undertakers in Dublin. Moscow Never Sleeps is just starting its US run. Most likely it will finish it’s run in the autumn and find its final resting place online with Netflix or Amazon.