Mars&Venus, opposition phases

Directed by Julien Audebert
Director of PhotographyAntoine Parouty
Choreographers Alice Renavand and Alexandre Gasse
Dancer Alice Renavand, principal dancer of the Paris Opera
Composers Kerwin Rolland and Julien Audebert

MARS & VENUS opposition phases, is an unique sequence-shot about the machinery of cinema and celestial mechanics. It is a sound film about appearances and reality, an experience about the place of the viewer.
Beyond the geometric and scientific project basis, the film develops a tension between the relentless astronomical measurement, and the body of a dancer. The body and the machinery (incarnation of the celestial mechanics) are caught in a dialectical relationship of agreement and struggle.

Interview with Director Julien Audebert

Describe, in as many or as few words as you see fit, the genesis of or inspiration behind Mars and Venus, Opposition Phases?
Some sources of inspiration beyond Mars&Venus…
Astronomy, mythology, rites to seduce gods, running into somebody several times in the subway, dolly rails.

How long did this project take to film? How long was post-production?
From the first drawing to the shooting, almost one year was necessary to turn the project into a film.
It required a narrow connection between calculation (scaling to human proportions the astronomic phenomenon), to realize the machinic device, create the choreography, find financing and partnerships and the right place (long space with columns…)
There is very little post-production because the film is a single shot. All the photographic work on colour variations, light flares… where made during the shooting, without any digital effects.
The main aspect of post prod was sound mixing (effects and mix on the different live mics) and colour timing.

What was the scientific process of depicting the pathways of Mars and Venus like?
All the technical aspect is about changing scale. In my film, the astronomical phenomenon is a kind of diagram, literally a floor plan for the dancer. But all the subject consists in translating it (in space and time) in the most direct human expression, and maybe the most ancient medium : dancing.

If this is your first dance for film production, what are a few things you learned about making a dance for film that surprised you? If this is not your first dance for film production, what are a few things that you are continually trying to refine or learn as you have sought to work thru this medium of dance and film together?

It is the fist time I have explored dancing in my work, but surely not the last. I am currently working on a new project involving several dancers as actors, in a more narrative investigation. But the relation between camera and dancer will be the core of the subject once more.
 The major challenge was to respect the timing imposed by celestial mechanics (camera speed and dancer speed) and create this gracious, sensual, « natural »  choreography. It was a difficult challenge which only a truly great artist like Alice Renavand could perform. Giving the impression of a fluid, sensual dance while conforming with this very straight and metronomic timing imposed by planet trajectories. I asked Alice to dance while ignoring the camera, but, in the middle of the film, she/ Venus  realizes she’s observed by Camera/ Mars and her dance slightly changes, as it becomes more seductive and sensual. The only help for her was to map her moves onto the sound percussion, which marks a quarter division of her circle.

The movie is a single shot and, as regards the shooting conditions (very physical and mentally hard performance, with cold conditions in March) we were constrained in a unique shot with only two try outs. No room for mistakes, and very fine coordination between all the staff members (camera operators, technicians, sound engineer…)

 In order to shoot the ‘opposition phase’ (the moment when Venus falls into line with Mars and the center (virtually the Sun)  we needed to simulate more than one hour of cycle. We shot only a sequence of ten minutes when the phenomenon occurs 2 times (the first time at 5:07 min is a kind of « missed opportunity ». They don’t fall in line perfectly, but we perceive Venus retrograde. The second time (at 7:40 min.) matches the perfect encounter where the 3 bodies fall in line perfectly.


Trajectory of Venus&Mars

Copyright with : J. Audebert/ IMCCE, P. Descamps

This is not a floor plan and it can be tricky to visualize as we need to project our mind into it so that our point of view (as a sitting still spectator) turn in the center (the loops are the moments when Venus comes closer to the camera (the camera’s stand point which circularly moves in reality). It is the « third » movement cast on screen, what we perceive as a whole. 
I wrote a little script with few indications of ‘key moves’ and showed Alice some paintings  for the choreography, and I asked her to perform it freely, with her classical and contemporary register. The script is like a short narrative starting from the birth of Venus, (register of toilette and water, alone), then, in the second part, when she discovers she’s observed, her dancing is more nervous and becomes more and more sensual. Something between escape and seduction.
Tiziano was a major inspiration for photography, but above all, the famous painting from Piero di Cosimo depicting Mars sleeping and Venus watching him. The movie reverses the iconography : here, Mars/camera  is watching Venus – but Mars, as a mechanical eye / war eye, is like a sleeping eye…

What is interesting or intriguing to you about dance for film vs. dance for stage? Or, if you are coming from a film background and working with dance is a more new medium for you, what drew you to wanting to capture and work with dance?
My interest in dancing is recent, and started with a very cinematographic approach, because the camera is like a second « actor » or « dancer » for the eye we see from. It is the central aspect of my approach. Dancer and camera create a third movement, the very one the spectator can see. 

The camera performs a kind of mechanical dance, with geometric and periodic movement (movement along the circular rail fixing the center and the second « pan » movement during the two ‘opposition phases’, when the camera seems to fix dead ahead (in reality it is only the few moments when the camera is moving on its axis /while turning on the rail). I conceived it as a dialogue between this « mechanical dance » and the human sensual dance, imposing a kind of struggle and/or harmony between each one.
Are there any projects, dance film or otherwise, that you are working on currently that you would like to share with our audience?

Ì am currently working on another project but it is too early to speak about it.


Julien Audebert – Interview by Art : Concept 


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