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Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991

Features
by Ryan Lattanzio
July 16, 2014 4:35 PM
2 Comments
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Originally published in The Los Angeles Times in 1991, here is a scintillating conversation between two late, great masters. Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died in April of this year, sat down with Japanese auteur filmmaker Akira Kurosawa to talk the director's penultimate film "Rhapsody in August." They touch upon on the aftermath of nuclear war, and the Nagasaki bombing of 1945, as well as art, film, poetry, writing and truth. What a pleasure these digressions are.

The tip of the hat goes to savvy film writer David Liu, who unearthed this enchanting interview on his must-read Kino Obscura blog. Highlights below; head to Liu's blog, here, to read the rest.

Gabriel García Márquez: I don’t want this conversation between friends to seem like a press interview, but I just have this great curiosity to know a great many other things about you and your work. To begin with, I am interested to know how you write your scripts. First, because I am myself a scriptwriter. And second, because you have made stupendous adaptations of great literary works, and I have many doubts about the adaptations that have been made or could be made of mine.

Akira Kurosawa: When I conceive an original idea that I wish to turn into a script, I lock myself up in a hotel with paper and pencil. At that point I have a general idea of the plot, and I know more or less how it is going to end. If I don’t know what scene to begin with, I follow the stream of the ideas that spring up naturally.

García Márquez: Is the first thing that comes to your mind an idea or an image?

Kurosawa: I can’t explain it very well, but I think it all begins with several scattered images. By contrast, I know that scriptwriters here in Japan first create an overall view of the script, organizing it by scenes, and after systematizing the plot they begin to write. But I don’t think that is the right way to do it, since we are not God.

García Márquez: Has your method also been that intuitive when you have adapted Shakespeare or Gorky or Dostoevsky?

Kurosawa: Directors who make films halfway may not realize that it is very difficult to convey literary images to the audience through cinematic images. For instance, in adapting a detective novel in which a body was found next to the railroad tracks, a young director insisted that a certain spot corresponded perfectly with the one in the book. “You are wrong,” I said. “The problem is that you have already read the novel and you know that a body was found next to the tracks. But for the people who have not read it there is nothing special about the place.” That young director was captivated by the magical power of literature without realizing that cinematic images must be expressed in a different way.

García Márquez: Can you remember any image from real life that you consider impossible to express on film?

Kurosawa: Yes. That of a mining town named Ilidachi, where I worked as an assistant director when I was very young. The director had declared at first glance that the atmosphere was magnificent and strange, and that’s the reason we filmed it. But the images showed only a run-of-the-mill town, for they were missing something that was known to us: that the working conditions in (the town) are very dangerous, and that the women and children of the miners live in eternal fear for their safety. When one looks at the village one confuses the landscape with that feeling, and one perceives it as stranger than it actually is. But the camera does not see it with the same eyes.

2 Comments

  • Brian | July 17, 2014 10:57 AMReply

    Two brilliant men, artists and humanists, the likes of which are not among us anymore. I urge you all to click on the link and read the entire dialogue.

    My only question: what language were the men speaking when this was recorded? Were they speaking in a common language or was an interpreter required? What languages was the interpreter translating and who was the interpreter? This is important information and I think it might make a difference in how we perceive this.

  • Brian | July 17, 2014 11:00 AM

    Okay, that was more than one question. Here's another one: if the original interview was conducted in a language or languages other than English, then who translated the final work into English?

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