×

Sam Mendes on Taking Audiences Through the Hell of War in ‘1917’

Sam Mendes’ “1917” finished a week before it started screening on Nov. 23 for audiences, first in New York and then Los Angeles. The positive reactions put it near the top of the Oscar best picture race. The film, which follows two World War I soldiers on a mission as they carry a message to prevent a catastrophic disaster, is conceived as a single continuous shot. The crafts combine to help create a big-screen event.

“The idea to do a single-take approach was devised by the film’s co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns (with Mendes). The goal was to draw the viewer down into the trenches following Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George Mackay) on their mission. Blake is more determined than his partner to complete it because his brother is serving on the front and time is of the utmost essence. Lee Smith’s editing masks the cuts, while Roger Deakins’ immersive cinematography guides the viewer. The cameras and operators were in the mud, the water and out on the field. Sometimes the audience sees things before the two soldiers do; other times they experience it at the same time. “[One-shot] is not right for every story,” Deakins said speaking to Variety‘s Tim Gray, “But it’s a great way to tell this particular story.”

From the trenches to the battlefield, Dennis Gassner’s production design is on point in creating the suspense and horrors of WWI.

Popular on Variety

Mendes relied on the reaction shots; the confusion, the determination, the emotion and the questions the men are facing as the core of the movie, and it packs a punch. “It felt like the best way to give you a sense of all this happening in real-time,” says Mendes of the continous-shot perspective. “I wanted you to feel like you were there with the characters, breathing their every breath, walking in their footsteps. The best way to do that is not to cut away and give the audience a way out, as it were.”

More Artisans

  • Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, California,

    Alison Small Set to Lead Training for Netflix in U.K. (EXCLUSIVE)

    Alison Small, CEO of The Production Guild of Great Britain, is in discussions to join Netflix as head of its training initiatives out of the U.K., Variety has learned. The Production Guild, whose members include line producers, production managers and location managers, among others, advertised for a new CEO last week. Its chair is Alex [...]

  • The Gentlemen Costume Design

    How Costume, Production Pros Used Class Style to Define Guy Ritchie’s ‘The Gentlemen’

    For Guy Ritchie’s newest crime-meets-action film “The Gentlemen,” about an American drug kingpin living in Britain and trying to sell his business, the director turned to his “Aladdin” team of costume designer Michael Wilkinson and production designer Gemma Jackson. But the backgrounds and looks they created had less to do with Arabian Nights than with [...]

  • Frozen 2 Rocketman Avengers Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame,' 'Frozen 2,' 'Rocketman' Take Top Honors at Lumiere Awards

    “Frozen 2” led the Advanced Imaging Society’s Lumiere Awards on Wednesday. The hit Disney sequel was honored with three Lumieres for immersive animated feature film, original song and use of HDR. Director Jennifer Lee was on hand to accept the prizes during a ceremony at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif. The Advanced Imaging Society [...]

  • 1917 Movie

    How the '1917' Special Effects Makeup Team Created Realistic Dead Bodies

    Prior to working on “1917,” special effects artist Tristan Versluis had designed no more than five or six corpses. But Sam Mendes, director of the WWI drama, which has garnered 10 Oscar nominations, needed Versluis, who picked up one of those noms in the hair and makeup category, to create 30 corpses and dead horses, [...]

  • The Irishman

    Editor Thelma Schoonmaker on Cutting Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman'

    When Thelma Schoonmaker heard about her Oscar nomination for “The Irishman,” she had just stepped off a plane from England. Martin Scorsese’s assistant had texted her about the news, one of the first people to do so. “The Irishman” received a total of ten nominations and was unlike anything Scorsese had done before. “He wanted [...]

  • David O. Russell

    David O. Russell Looks at 'Three Kings' 20 Years Later

    When David O. Russell made “Three Kings” in 1999, it was one of the most definitive films on the Gulf War. At the time, the director had worked on shorts “Hairway to the Stars” and “Bingo Inferno: A Parody on American Obsessions.” He had also worked on features “Spanking the Monkey” and “Flirting with Disaster.” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content