Niki Caro Clash of the Titans

Niki Caro Clash of the Titans

Vintners Luck

Director Niki Caro has established herself as a director of some note following films like Whale Rider (2002), which earned its eleven year old star, Keisha Castle-Hughes an Oscar nomination and North Country which won its star, Charlize Theron, one of the highly prized golden statutes. Her latest film is an odd hybrid of a story.

Part melodrama, part fantasy and part bold undertaking, the story revolves around Sobran Jodeau (Jeremie Renier) a peasant in 19th century France and an angel called Xas (Gaspard Ulliel). Xax provides advice for Jodeau on the ways of the world. He tells him about his future wife (Castle-Hughes) and teaches him how to make wine. Over time the two continue to meet and Xas offers to give Jodeau some vines from his own garden - thereby allowing Jodeau to make wine unlike any other mortal - if Jodeau will agree to meet him once a year on the same night. Jodeau agrees and he becomes the celebrated vintner he always dreamed of becoming. But then his family are beset by troubles; death, illness, floods and storms and Xas eventually confesses that hes in fact a fallen angel (the devil) and well you dont make a bargain with the devil without it costing you dearly. The film is based on Elizabeth Knoxs novel. Gaynor Flynn caught up with the director.

Its four years since North Country, why so long?

Niki Caro: I had a baby [laughs], thats why it was four years.

Well that will take up a certain amount of time!

Niki Caro: [Laughs] That takes up a little bit of time and I got the option on this novel directly after we came back from Toronto Film Festival after Whale Rider in 2002, so Ive had it for ages and it did take a very long time to write. Its quite a complex adaptation but also I had a baby then I made a Hollywood movie then I had another baby. I was just living my life and so it just took a long time.

What was it about the story that grabbed you?

Niki Caro: It was so bold, such an audacious idea and the fact that the book, a story about wine and angels seemed to be a really nice way to talk about the business of being human.

Was Keisha always going to be in the film?

Niki Caro: No because she was a baby when I first decided to do it and it took me so long that she grew up in that time.

What attracts you to a story?

Niki Caro: I dont have a big master plan but theyre all films that compelled me in some way and moved me in some way and when I get an instinct for something then I just follow that. I dont have an intellectual idea of how its all going to go, its more like yeah I want to do that. but Im particularly interested in the human experience and pretty much nothing in mother nature doesnt really fascinate me.

When did you know you wanted to be a filmmaker?

Niki Caro: I was at arts school studying sculpture and I had an exhibition, it was part of a group exhibition and I cried because I could tell that the sculpture is beautiful but it doesnt really communicate the way I wanted to communicate. I wanted to communicate in a better way and so I taught myself filmmaking. Well I did one post graduate year at a film school but mostly I learnt by making them.

Why do you think there are so few female directors? I know in Australia and New Zealand there are several, but still not enough.

Niki Caro: I do think there is a biological imperative about that situation. Because the years you get to become successful as a director, those are the years youve got to have a family and there arent many of us who are privileged enough to be able to do that and Im really lucky. I have a fantastic husband who stops working when I work.

What does he do?

Niki Caro: Hes an architect and so we tag team. Once of us is always with the children if the other is working and the family is always together and hes outrageously supportive of my filmmaking life because thats the life he likes living. I would rather be at home all the time but hes like no, back on the horse, time to make another film. {Laughs].

What were a couple of challenges on this film?

Niki Caro: We had a huge challenge on the financial front. The movie was made for the same budget as Whale Rider even though it was a period film shot in two hemispheres.

So were not talking luxurious trailers here?

Niki Caro: [Laughs] Were talking no weather cover. It should have been a twelve week shoot and we shot it in eight weeks all hand held, all on location with very complex, technical stuff with the wings let alone with the story itself. It totally forced me to work completely instinctively because Id only have an hour to get that shot. I mean directing is very instinctive for me. Its sort of a strange thing. Ive very happy on a film set and I think a lot of the decisions made under time pressure were pretty good ones.

Whats next?

Niki Caro: I have an American project called Butter Cup and thats different again. Its great to have a job where you can be in the world.

Clash of the Titans

Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes
Director: Louis Leterrier
Rated: M
Running Time:106 minutes

The ultimate struggle for power pits men against kings and kings against gods. But the war between the gods themselves could destroy the world. Born of a god but raised as a man, Perseus (Sam Worthington) is helpless to save his family from Hades (Ralph Fiennes), vengeful god of the underworld. With nothing left to lose, Perseus volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat Hades before he can seize power from Zeus (Liam Neeson) and unleash hell on earth. Leading a daring band of warriors, Perseus sets off on a perilous journey deep into forbidden worlds. Battling unholy demons and fearsome beasts, he will only survive if he can accept his power as a god, defy his fate and create his own destiny.

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