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One Man’s Emotional Journey – Full Contact
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10/27 Press Conference featuring “Full Contact” form Competition Section
One Man’s Emotional Journey – Full Contact

Full Contact

©2015 TIFF

Full Contact is a contemporary tale of a drone operator, Ivan, who ends up bombing a school – and innocent civilians. The film follows Ivan through an emotional and spiritual quest to come to terms with his responsibility for this killing. Director David Verbeek, through stunningly beautiful and austere visuals and a story that builds more on emotional logic, rather than a neat and tidy narrative creates a strong film that brings up many issues and ideas. Grégoire Colin, who inhabits every frame of the film as Ivan, says more with his chiseled face than a talkier role could ever express. Verbeek and Colin talked about Full Contact, which is in the Competition section of the Tokyo International Film Festival.
Ivan essentially suffers from PTSD after he obliterates the school. Verbeek talked about how the new conditions of drone warfare have changed how soldiers are affected.
“I think that the phenomenon that really fascinated me above all was the fact that this post traumatic stress that we examine in this movie is about people that have actually not been to war. Things like shell shock or post-traumatic stress is something that people have known throughout the ages – of course, in Japan after the Second World War. Men have suffered post-traumatic stress from the real contact with the enemy. So the point of this film is to examine what happens in the human consciousness when the conflict is not really experiences, but when it is very affecting a person without having been there.”
He added, “This film is not a political film, which either is pro or against this kind of remote warfare. But it is actually a film that examines what becomes reality to us and how we perceive reality – and how actually we cannot choose in our consciousness what we want to experience as real and not real. The soldier in this story – his first reaction after he hears about the people who he killed – says, “It has nothing to do with me. I was just following orders and I was not there.” But later on he finds that it’s impossible for him to forget it. And so, the film is very much a view of the subconscious and a map, if you will, to the mind.”
“It’s also for this reason that the film starts with a metaphor for Plato’s the Allegory of the Cave – when the man is inside the cave and only sees the shadows of the others and cannot really see the others directly. This scene also comes back later in the film and actually is the core of the film. It’s how we perceive the other. And I’m using this ancient Greek metaphor to question, again, the reality nowadays of drone warfare, where we see people very far away on the screen, in a different time zone – and we make decisions about them.”
The film involved research, some of which was difficult to acquire, some of which came in a bit unexpectedly. Verbeek explained, “In the course of preparing for this film, we tried to speak to real drone pilots. And we reached out to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was very confidential and we really didn’t succeed in talking to these people. It was only later, when I was already developing the shooting script that Brandon Bryant actually became a kind of Edward Snowden and became a whistle-blower about the subject.”
Verbeek didn’t realize how close his conception of Ivan was to reality. He explained, “It was a strange thing, because only when I was in the editing, I finally met Brandon Bryant in person, because he was at the IDFA festival in Amsterdam and he watched the film. And that is one of the greatest moments for me in making this film, because he confirmed that everything that I had done in this film is very true to his experience. In fact, there were some amazing coincidences – details about his life that I got in the film – that I couldn’t have known, that were not in interviews before, but that were just coincidently completely correct about his life. At some point he looked at me and said, ‘How did you get into my head?’ That was a very encouraging moment.”
Grégoire had his own challenges in creating Ivan.
“In preparing for this character, I really actually wanted to meet somebody with PTSD, but unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. I was looking for a facial expression to build my character on. It’s a way of speaking of experience and maybe something I can see in his eyes, or I can feel some kind of… of course, la souffrance (suffering).”
When asked about the difficulties in making Full Contact, Verbeek said, “You face so many challenges in a film and they’re all on completely different levels. I think what in many ways was the most difficult was the fighting scene at the end. It required a lot of material for us to shoot this fight in a way that it would be very cruel, very convincing and also to have the right emotional impact at the end, because it’s not something that you see a lot in films – that violence in a final confrontation between hunter and prey. That it becomes sentimental in this way. So this was something that we really had to find and create ourselves. There weren’t many examples. So both in shooting and also in the editing the scene was invented and re-invented several times.”
He continued, “Another thing that was very difficult was languages. To make a film with several languages and actors and a very international group of people and to so somehow get these scenes and people to talk to each other in a way that works and is believable. But I will say that I like to use different languages in cinema. Of course, cinema is not primarily about the spoken word, but in the very mixed up and multi-cultural world of today, I very much like it when there are a lot of languages and where people from anywhere are anywhere else.”
He added with a smile, “And in one of my next films that I’m working on, I’m also planning to use a lot of Japanese.”
[Nicholas Vroman]

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KEIRIN.JPThe 28th Tokyo International Film Festival will be held with funds provided by Japan Keirin Association.TIFF History
27th Tokyo International Film Festival(2014)