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Temptation Of The Nonlinear:
Kazuaki Kiriya
interviewed by Patrick Hudson and Richard Bowden

A lot of word-of-mouth interest in your film Casshern was generated by the trailer, which has been widely circulated over the net. Was that an impact you were anticipating?

No, not at all. We weren't even finished with the film, but I was getting calls from all over the world. It was bizarre.

Your film departs from the original anime in some significant ways and has been called a continuation, as much as an updating, of the source. What where the most difficult creative decisions this involved - and why did you elect to make the changes?

Kazuaki Kiriya
The original Casshern was a minor animation series that nobody even remembered. It had a very dark tone and a sad storyline that captivated me as a child. I guess the most difficult thing was to retain that feeling and updating it.

The film's lush digital backgrounds reminded me of Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books but, outside of the anime field, where did you find inspiration for Casshern? Do you feel common ground with the, for example, Terminator or RoboCop films or are you trying something different from those films?

It is interesting that you mention Prospero's Books. I watched that movie in an empty theatre years ago. While pretty much everybody around me was falling a sleep, I thought 'God! This is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen!' That movie showed me the way to merge theatre and movies, and the poetry of the nonlinear. Also, directors such as Terrence Malik, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, and others influenced me greatly as a teenager. The funny thing is that I first set out to make Casshern like Terminator 2, which is an amazing entertainment film. However, as I spent more time and became delirious with this project, I couldn't resist the temptation of the nonlinear. If I were stronger and kept away from it, I would've made much more money.
Casshern's amazing retro-totalitarian backdrops
Have you seen Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow (like Casshern, it claims to be among the very first entirely blue-screen movies made, and co-incidentally also features the 'marching robots' idea), and how do you think your film compares with that production?

I still haven't seen it. I saw the trailer and thought it was beautiful.

How pleased were you with the CGI of the film, and how much further would you like to take it?

I was very pleased considering we only had six million dollars for the total budget. It forced us to be more creative because of the limitation. I think we could've taken it much further if we had more money and time, but do people want to see that? I think today's audiences aren't looking for something real. They are looking for something different. I am sick of some techno geeks saying how unrealistic the CGI is or low the resolution is. I just want to say to them 'You idiots, we meant it that way!'

Were computer games an influence? Do you think there has been a relationship between the aesthetics of computer games and CGI effects?

I don't really play video games anymore, though I liked the Myst series. I think when the processors in game consoles become faster, the line between movies and games will be even more blurred. I think we are almost there to start introducing the element of beauty in the interactive world.
Tetsuya sets out to destroy some robots in Casshern
SF fans have noticed your film has some similarities to Equilibrium, an American production of two years ago. Have you seen that earlier film?

Yes, I saw some parts of it. I think people see the similarity in the totalitarian theme, but I was more influenced by 1984, or... Soviet Union.

Is Casshern intended to be an alternative history? If so, where would you place the point of departure? If not, how do you see the relationship of this world to ours? Are you drawing any explicit political parallels?

Political parallels are everywhere in this movie. I wanted to say that nobody is innocent.

Some scenes of your film reminds one of those in a religious epic, especially those of the neo-sapiens fleeing the world of men and seeking sanctuary in the snow. Was that a deliberate reference?

Yes, although I am not a Christian, I was always fascinated by biblical images. Some people couldn't understand the scene where the leader of the neo-sapiens screams then the clouds part and the castle appears. If you are the kind of person who requires a scientifical explanation for Moses parting the Red Sea, you will never enjoy this movie.

Do you feel that Casshern is an extension of your fashion and music video work, or is this a new direction? Is the retro look one you've been interested in for a while? Does it say something about the world of Casshern is it there just to separate it their world from ours?

Yes, technically, and aesthetically I utilised everything from my past. However, this was my first attempt to create something without 'clients'. Do I like the retro look? I believe no matter how fantastic the story or the world is, if you can retain some warmth, people stay. In this case, nostalgia.

Michiko Kitamura's costumes are, in their own way, as much a highlight of the film as are the CGI effects. How important was her work do you think to the overall feel of the film?

She has been my costume designer for many years. She taught me a lot, and I owe much of my success to her.

Tetsuya's body armour reminded some viewers of that which appears in The Guyver. Was that series in the back of your mind when working on the costume?

Never saw it.
Tetsuya and Luna share happier times in Casshern
Although Casshern has some very notable action set pieces, arguably it is not an action picture, instead perhaps putting greater emphasis on scenes of dialogue. How did you manage to strike a balance between the various demands of the story?

It's about chaos and paradox. It's someone's nightmare. When you are dreaming, irrational things happen, but you understand it. It may not make sense but you feel it. This movie is that. I wanted to make a film that you can watch over and over, much like [listening to] music. Action, sci-fi, Shakespeare, and whatever. I really don't like genre.

Was it difficult to get performances from the actors in a purely CGI environment? How did you go about creating the proper mood for the emotional scenes? Did you create backgrounds around the performances or try and guide the actors to react to what you had already created?

Akira Terao, who played Dr Azuma said to me "Blue back? No problem. I spent days acting in front of it in Kurosawa's Dreams."

What's your next project?

I can't really talk about it, but it will be very linear and easy to understand.

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W.H. Smith

masked hero in Casshern

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