When thought takes on its form in language, I write articles. Sometimes I’m asked to tell about interesting events, to share my opinion or answer some questions. Some of the articles can be found in this section.
«Target» movie props' design and manufacture
The world premier took place on the 14th February 2011 on the Berlin film festival (Berlinale 61).
Target is a film directed by Alexander Zeldovich. Screenplay by Alexander Zeldovich co-authored with Vladimir Sorokin, produced by Dmitry Lesnevskiy, operator – Alexander Ilhovskiy. The artist of the first stage was Yuri Harikov, music was written by Leonid Desyatnikov. I will not specify all the credits of this star team, ones that know – understand that this is not just any movie. The cast is powerful: Maksim Sukhanov, Justin Wedell, Vitaly Kishenko, Danila Kozlovsky, Nina Loshinina, Vitaly Mihalcov, Alyona Polkina, Sergey Potapov(II), Igor Serebryanniy, Danniella Soyanovich, Anton Habarov.
The global reach of the shooting: Moscow, Moscow region, Gorny Altai (on the boarder with Mongolia) Kamchatka, England, Hong Kong.
Peugeot 908RC, the concept car, was delivered from France specially for the shooting.
(material provided by the authors of the movie):
Russia, 2020. The country prospers. There are still enough mineral resources, a mega-route “Paris – Guangzhou” is developed across the country, it connects all the manufacturers and consumers, Russia richens with transit income.
The country found its own unique social structure that combines the international tendencies and domestic traditions – ecological democracy, its basic principle being: each person according to his “rank” occupies his own niche in the social ecosystem and does not claim any others. The gunner to his linstock, and the steersman to the helm, all happy. Every few years all citizens undergo “tarification”, it indicates their social position.
The central figures of the movie belong to the elite rank of the tariff network. Victor is the natural sub-sources resources minister, his wife is Zoe, her brother Mitya is a national TV star, Nikolay is a colonel at the mobile customs services on the mega-route “Paris – Guangzhou” that passes across all Russia.
They have everything and they can well afford almost anything, except for things that are hard to buy, like fading youth and happiness.
But even this appears to be achievable. Rumors are that somewhere in the mountains of Altai there is a deserted soviet astrophysical complex – a cosmic particles’ storage facility, gigantic plate resembling a target. One that spends some time in this storage facility, comes back reborn – tissues regenerate, youthful energy and fineness of feelings returns.
The heroes fly out to Altai, find “Target” and everything proves to be true, youth comes back, with each day they look better, but together with their appearance all the traits of character begin to bloom – both good and bad.
The characters get carried away and lose control over themselves and their destiny. Their lives speed up to full pelt, none of them are ready for such an encounter with “themselves”. They are tortured by the feeling of debt, but they don’t understand whom they owe and what. A long atrophied anxiety over their intended purpose and the ability to tell good from evil reappears.
All of this ends in tragedy for some, yet others find a solution and the opportunity to preserve their identity.
I was invited to develop more than ten devices of the future – electronic appliances that could have been in daily use in Moscow 2020. Apart from that I designed the device for the final stage of the unique “nanomaterial” production; determined how the future garbage would look like and how it appears.
The script did not include any specific descriptions of the objects, just defined their presence, so I had free rein concerning design, taking in consideration only the real technology of device manufacture and the budget.
Ordinary products from shops and expensive stores were in the list of devises: cell phones, headsets, watches, computers, a video camera, and a smoking device. It was important that all these objects looked natural, fitted well into the environment created by the artist and had credibility with the audience. The main criterion of a good fantastic prop is its visibility to the onlooker. A good prop is not noticeable; it serves as background for the creation of perception and atmosphere. But this does not mean that it can be done irresponsibly. A cardboard knife lacks the needed weight, the luster of steel, the clear metal sound when the blade hits metal or stone. Any micro fraud will give it away as a dummy. The object has to be natural.
Not all objects after production behaved as planed; there were problems and faults. The process of shooting is hard work non-stop. The actors in a second wear out the shoes and clothes and everything they use. Multiple repetitions of the same movements, scenes are a serious test for the props. Usually a backup set of shoes or clothes is prepared. In my occasion the whole kit had to function, for instance, to open, to slide, to light up and such. Not all key parts endured the strain. The durability reservoir had to be supreme, longer than one of the usual serial production.
So, to understand what the cell phone of every character has to look like, I thought of how this device came to the hand of the owner. A person chooses a phone to suit his style and self perception. When the phone is given to a person, it is chosen to suit the status and appearance of the gifted. The screenplay gives a detailed description of each character, his occupation and personality. We can assume that a major post official does not visit shops by himself and does not buy phones in stands on bus-stops. He either gets it from a competent agency or as a gift from friends. As for a popular TV show host, he can buy a phone himself but more likely in an expensive store and probably abroad. The appearance has to correspond with the personality and circumstances. On this stage it’s clear what the style of each object should be like.
The question is how to communicate the atmosphere of the future? Unexpected new functions that base on new technologies can help. In my case that was not a problem. Everything that appears on the stands in shops and becomes a mass product in ten years time has already been revealed as concepts and experimental models. Technology and devices of the future are being developed today. If you are familiar with the new developments of science and technology, you can easily adapt them to the objects.
Another thing, if the story takes place in the far future where anything can happen. In that case the challenge is complicated. I think that the objects that are based on the biometry of the human body will look most natural. Spoons, chairs, clothes – it’s enough to work with the stylistics. But the mechanisms and devices or processes can be of any kinds they are based on the discoveries that are yet to be made. It’s important that all these things do not distract the audience from the actors and the plot
Victor – the natural sub-sources resources minister
The minister’s cell phone should be brutal, simple and rugged as a brick. At the same time it should be technically one step ahead of the phones of ordinary consumers. I made it in the shape of a billet that consists of two blocks. A wooden body with sensitive surface for hand-dialing which, with the help of a joystick, transfers into a transparent crystal block with a dimensional stereo image of the speaker. The width of the device allows placing a 3D hologram inside the glass parallelogram. It could be a favorite screen saver or an image from the speaker’s camera.
Case – is a safe-deposit bag where not only the laptop and usual objects and folders are carried, but bipolar glasses are place inside as well.
Zoe – Victor’s wife
The minister’s wife’s phone isn’t just a means of communication, it’s something outstanding, unusual, an object so simple and yet so complicated, just like a jewelry box with a secret. When closed, it’s a phone receiver with wooden buttons decorated with stones, it has no monitor and is quite subtle. But when opened, it unrolls a screen panel consisting of fine and flexible liquid crystal monitors. The object turns into a fan and communicator with a large screen and an option of placing it on a surface. The headset is pretty simple – a combination of adornment and device.
Mitya – Zoe’s brother, a popular TV show host
A showman’s phone and watch have to be beyond the customaries, they have to attract attention. A fashionable young man wears a watch in the shape of a contour and a phone with flexible body that wraps itself around the wrist like a bracelet wile in standby mode.
Nikolay – a colonel at the mobile customs services
A cell phone – scanner, an official instrument given out to each worker of the customs. Used as a communication device with a projecting camera function and a scanner for identifying bar-codes. It’s a solid and reliable device, close to a weapon for an officer who participates in the operations of illegals’ capture. The screen throws out like a blade.
Bipolar glasses – a device with the help of which you can see the proportion of good and evil in a person
Victor: “There was once a great scientist Lui Paster, who invented milk pasteurization. Apart from that he made another discovery. There are only two ways by which molecules polarize light: in one or the other direction. Strictly speaking, they can move light clockwise or anti-clockwise. It makes no difference if the molecules are live or not. For example, a cup, the air and a shrimp. It was recently discovered that the objects that move light clockwise are positive and constructive. They stimulate life. Those objects that move light in an anticlockwise direction are destructive. Simply said, good is clockwise, evil is anti-clockwise. Through these glasses you are able to see the percentage of one or the other in any object, organism or human being”.
A device for production of Erbie (a rare-earth metal).
An instrument for the last stage realization – pouring of the metal into formers.
Victor: «One of the rarest metals. There is little or none of it in the earth. It exists only as vapor. Imagine the vapor that curls up over the craters of volcanoes. The metal is obtained from this vapor. These two drops condensed for 5 months”…
Director: “And that’s how the industrial complex where we are now is unique in its manufacture. Usually, as we know, erbie and other metals of the lantanant group are obtained from scrap. This plant was constructed only to obtain this rare element from the inexhaustible source – from volcanic emanations of our home Kamchatka. I would like to remind you the numbers that can shock the unfamiliar audience: to obtain 10 grams of erbie, we need to process approximately 400 000 cubic meters of volcanic emanations. The whole cycle of manufacture takes approximately 5 months. Once, at the end of these five months, we get 70 grams, which is not that little. By the way, it is approximately 10 percent of the yearly world demand for this unique element”. Laptops for the ministry officials and inside Victor’s flat
Transparent touch-screen monitors. They fix together with metal contours which hold all the devices. Video camera
can be transformed into a device with high-powered optics model of 2020
A smoking device.
Pipe-chillum 2020 with the option of smoking in pairs
A pipe is charged with different flavored filling in the shape of discs the size of confetti. The used pipes and the smoked discs of flavored confetti go into the garbage.
The stationary computer on Victor's table in his study
On the surface of a heavy pedestal from malachite in which all electronics are placed, the monitor in the form of two gilded frameworks is fastened.
Not all objects were shot in the studio. Unfortunately, I cannot describe the monitor and the device for Erbie production, Mitya’s phone and headsets.
To create fantastic objects, you have to be a humanist and a technician at the same time. Every day hundreds of new concepts are published, many independently from each other are based on the same technical principles. Streams come together to form rivers and it becomes clear what will really appear and what is just informational noise. A delicately adjusted filter can help the designer chose a most likely principle of the object’s work. It might help to read scientific literature, works of futurologists, observations of discoveries in the field of physics, chemistry. All-round knowledge can help see an objective picture. And the communication with the experts, specialists of narrow fields, who work, for instance, just with cell phones and microwave ovens will protect you against unpleasant mistakes.
for [kak) magazine