'Worlds Away' from the tent: Cirque du Soleil takes on the big screen
With more than 100 million tickets sold across six continents for Cirque du Soleil stage shows, there’s no denying the brand has reach.
For more than 20 years the animal-less Grand Chapiteau has been welcoming the masses to shows including ‘O’, Alegria, Quidam, Love and Ka.
But in a bid to cast the net further Cirque’s General Manager Jacques Méthé wanted more.
Directors James Cameron and Andrew Adamson joined forces to present a fantastical love story, featuring the best of the world-famous circus troupe’s elaborate performances, this time bringing the big top to the big screen.
Enjoying its gala screening at Monday’s Dubai International Film Festival, Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away relies Adamson’s narrative (he’s directed Shrek and Narnia films) and Cameron’s experience in the world of 3D.
Adamson said while he didn’t hesitate to do the film, which features an impressive use of slow-motion, close-ups and what appear to be almost impossible camera angles, he felt the pressure of working with a director of Cameron’s status.
“I had nothing to worry about though,” he added. “I was learning 3D, so frankly who better to learn from? He was everything from a producer to sometimes a VP. There was one scene where I had to leave to go back to New Zealand and he finished the shoot for me. He said right from the very beginning “I’m here if and when you need me, but I’ll be out of your way if you don’t”. He was very supportive. There were times when I pushed a little harder, there was something I wanted to do which was going to be more expensive and more difficult and it was great to have someone like James Cameron at your back when you’re asking for those things,” laughed the New Zealand director. “He’s definitely a man you want on your side.”
Cirque du Soleil and Cameron had been talking for a number of years about the possibility of a fictional film rather than the many documentaries the world-renowned circus had filmed over the years.
“They had been talking about doing something for a while,” said Adamson talking about Cameron like one of his closest friends. “Cirque had come to me with this film and we decided to use the equipment for 3D and Jim said he’d like to come and work with us. The thing we bonded over initially was the technical aspect I think. We both come from a technical background and he immediately understood what I wanted to achieve. He knew how to achieve it in a way that I didn’t necessarily know in terms of which cameras we use and where best to position the camera to create the best dimensional effect.”
Cameron was “playful” on set according to Adamson, and took advantage of the freedom he had not having a deadline on his shoulders. “From his perspective he got to play without the pressure of having to finish to movie and spend all the time doing it,” Adamson laughed. “Which he loved. He loves playing with the technology.”
Aware it would require a “particularly alternative” creative process to that of Shrek – a film which relies heavily on strong dialogue – at no point did Adamson consider dialogue for the film.
“They knew what they were doing and we had to insert ourselves into that,” he said. “It was a real turning point for me as a filmmaker. The music and the imagery puts you into this somewhat dream-like world. I never really thought about putting any dialogue in the film – we wanted to stay true to the stage shows which also have very little dialogue. Sometimes you can just watch it for the spectacle and other times you can get more emotionally involved. These people have trained to such high levels. They are doing things that should be impossible. They work really hard and train themselves so they can make the impossible look easy,” which was one of the reasons Adamson signed up he said.
“I remember feeling transformed,” he recalled of the first time he watched Cirque. “I knew I’d never experienced anything like it before. I found myself getting very caught up in it. I like the process of film making. It’s not about getting the best opening weekend. I like the idea of people coming from lots of different backgrounds coming together to create something. People from all different nations come together to create this impressive entertainment experience. That’s not something which should be missed.”
* Cirque du Soliel: Worlds Away opens at cinemas across the UAE on December 27.