Canadian art inspired by Mexico
Mes nuits feront écho is the first fiction feature by Sophie Goyette, screenwriter and filmmaker originally from Montreal, known internationally for her short films. Filmed in Canada, Mexico and China, a film in which one of the highlights is the magnificent sound design done by Simon Gervais and that, along with perfect images and performances, shows the inner and solitary beauty of the world.
Sophie, the film has a sort of dark melancholy, what was your inspiration to write it?
The film is about three characters from three different generations and cultural backgrounds that travel between Canada, China and Mexico. I always knew that if I did a fiction film, it would be one that made everyone feel connected. Even if there are three languages, it’s one internal journey and there’s a deep sense of melancholy. The characters feel stuck in their lives, sometimes personally, professionally, in family or in love, just like we are in our daily lives and I wanted to see how they have the key to move forward in their dreams.
It’s a film about love, regret, dreams, travelling, art… and how we are all more connected in this world than we think.
Why did you choose these three countries to shoot it, specifically why Mexico?
Sophie: I’m a big traveller, but before I had never been to Mexico or China before I wrote the script, so I wrote it and decided to come explore and see if we could make the movie, find location and actors here. I feel you have a great spirituality that is present in the film. The same thing happened with China, so the way I chose the place was very mystical.
Here specifically it was Mexico City, Xalapa and Catemaco. I felt there was something very magical and I wanted to film it, particularly in that last place that is known for its mysticism. I wanted people, no matter from which part of the world they were watching it, to feel something real, something that spoke to them internally and that could take them on a journey to feel these places even if they had never seen them.
In Mexico as well as China I found a spirituality and human connection in the people, and something very strong with family too. Even my actors were wonderful, they have deeply incredible souls and they understood the script immediately. They’re not very different from us in Quebec. I showed the actor in China what I shot in Mexico and he understood it immediately as something magical.
Sometimes when we travel we think we’re escaping something, but deep within, we find ourselves and sometimes we need to go to the other side of the world to tell ourselves and others how we feel. We have it at home, but in Mexico there’s something that opens up in me, it’s very difficult to explain, but my heart is here.
We had our world premiere in Mexico City in February and when I knew I was coming to Guanajuato, I said yes! There’s an artistic spirit here and that moved me.
In terms of the film’s score, why classical music?
Simon: We had that from the script stage and while we were filming it, that was an inspiration for the actors. After that, it was built around the state and feeling of the music.
Sophie: When I wrote the script, classical music was already contemplated and I always shared it so everyone could feel what the film was about internally. They’re well-known pieces that we sometimes listen to in an elevator and apparently in our daily lives, and I incorporated them into this film to give them that noble quality again. One of the characters is a musician, the other a photographer and the third one a writer and the editing was about how to use music in cinema in a different way.
There is, for example, a 14-minute scene done in a single take in which music is integrated from the set, not in post-production.
Sophie; what was your experience with the actors like? How did you find them?
In Canada, I found a young actress who is a great pianist, and just like my character she’s a traveller too; she knew Mexico very well and understood the film. I had seen many Mexican films and made many trips to get to know actors beforehand, not just to audition, but to see how we connected. They’re professional actors who have worked in cinema. When I showed them what I had filmed in Canada, as well as the script, they were great people and great actors. IT was very easy to earn their trust. I was in Mexico a lot and we communicated through Skype and e-mail and they would ask me many things about the character’s outer and inner life, so everything was easy to express.
When we saw each other, we all understood each other. We spoke the same language, even when I had good translators, but it was something direct and I was blessed to have found them.
Simon; what was your experience like in Mexico incorporating the sound of the movie?
I came to Mexico with my parents when I was little, to Acapulco, and I travelled to Oaxaca as a teenager, but when I came as part of the production team, it was my first time recording sound here. First I recorded into a small tape recorder, I love having those sounds when I travel. I actually brought it with me to Guanajuato. Capturing the rhythm and the music of the places I go to… I used live sound from where we had recorded, whatever I could record during our breaks from filming, to incorporate it and let the spectator feel the rhythm of Mexico and these people played by these actors. Our small team connected to Mexican life, how they speak, dance, smile, etc. The first time I went I was a tourist and now with this movie I feel more connected.
Editing was also important and that’s where Sophie made some things make sense. We connected sequences of images with sound and music. Sometimes we make sound transitions or we anticipate is and give this feeling that everything is connected. You don’t fully understand it, but you feel the music and feel it inside.
Sophie: Sometimes we forget how important sound is in film. If we close our eyes in that moment, we listen and we feel everything. When I worked with Simon for the first time I told him how much I wanted the sound to be authentic in the film and I wanted people to see the film in other countries and feel what it’s like to be there. His work is extraordinary, the film is authentic with the sound.
Sophie; compared to your experiences making film in Canada, what difficulties did you find while filming in Mexico?
I would say that more films should be made here. I got the permit to come and everyone received me very kindly. Even though I shot in many locations, Mexico was a family that welcomed me with open arms. It’s preparation above all. I travelled a lot before I started filming and before I brought my team. I think your instincts tell you where to go, what locations and what actors.
I was born in Montréal, but I think you could film a little bit anywhere. We have to be open to co-producing more and more. I think co-production is the future, because it’s very difficult to get money to finance a film, so we have to look out for each other. It’s a way for films to be seen in many more countries and for me Mexico is a great discovery.
It might be bizarre to say this, but even though I haven’t met those who will see the film here in Mexico, I made the film for them, so they don’t feel alone in that screening room for that hour and a half. It’s a different kind of cinema, not a story told conventionally. It’s about images and sound and our inner senses. Spectators have to be open and patient at first, because I want to take them on an inner journey and I promise that if they’re patient, the film will reward them. I really hope they like it.