Finally at the cinema in France, After Yang is an SF slap not to be missed. AlloCiné spoke with actor Colin Farrell and director Kogonada on the themes of the film and its crazy dance scene.
A real favorite of the Cannes Film Festival 2021 presented in the Un Certain Regard section, After Yang finally arrives in our French cinemas. This anticipation film tells how a father and his adopted daughter try to save their defective android babysitter. The artist, screenwriter and director Kogonada (Columbus) makes this adaptation of Alexander Weinstein’s short story “Saying Goodbye to Yang” a delicate and moving UFO that will not leave you indifferent.
Carried by a Colin Farrel at her best and a young Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja already very talented, the film summons our relationship to the image, to cultural heritage and to the very essence of humanity in a whirlwind of very contemporary and aesthetically superb sweetness and poetry, to be discovered on the big screen to enjoy full of an intense cinematic experience.
Who better than its screenwriter and director and its main actor to tell us about it? AlloCiné was able to discuss with Kogonada and Colin Farrell on the themes of the film, its staging and on a scene that will certainly mark the spirits.
AlloCiné: You adapted the short story “Saying Goodbye to Yang” by Alexander Weinstein, why did you choose to modify the title and call your film After Yang?
Kogonada: I like the word “after” after because it has a kind of double meaning. It can mean a place in time, but it can also mean the pursuit of something you are looking for. So I like the idea that a lot of this movie is about Jake’s research trying to figure out Yang’s life. So I always liked the double meaning of it.
I think everyone has told you about the opening sequence, where all the families are dancing in sync, it’s so striking. How was it thought out and worked on?
Kogonada: I thought of this scene when I was writing the conversation about a family trying to be a team. I just knew it would materialize with a raw dance. The choreographer saw this sequence as a burst of confetti at the start of the film. And it was playful, which I loved. And it’s also a bit dark. We are talking about a dance contest where families are eliminated if they are not synchronized.
Colin, how did you prepare for this dance with plastic costumes?
Colin Farrell: My former career teaching country and western line dancing when I was 18 didn’t prepare me for this. (laughs) But no, it was fun. What is explored in the film is very soft but serious and imposing. We talk about grief, loss and separation from those we love. So to have a frivolous, light-hearted, and also jubilant scene all together at the start was awesome.
It was also a great introduction to our characters and our colleagues since we recorded this sequence at the start of filming. We all got to know each other with this scene, especially Jodie for whom it was the very first day of filming.
Dance captures human feelings. I always feel moved by dance because it doesn’t bother with words. And there’s something about dancing that’s almost irresistible as a human being. It kind of reminds you of something very primitive about who we are. Ultimately, we are beings who need to express ourselves and who need to feel connected to others. I like that in dancing.
As in the credits of the series Pachinko, which you co-produce, you make a family dance. Is the expression of the body through dance a way for you to express the connection that there is in a family?
Kogonada: That’s exactly it. Dance captures human feelings. I always feel moved by dance because it doesn’t bother with words. And there’s something about dancing that’s almost irresistible as a human being. It kind of reminds you of something very primitive about who we are. Ultimately, we are beings who need to express ourselves and who need to feel connected to others. I like that in dancing.
The reflection on androids and the quest for humanity are questions often addressed in works of science fiction but the two entities are often put in confrontation, what I like in After Yang is that you are interested more to the notion of ties and social connections, and of this family that we choose for ourselves which is much stronger than blood ties.
Colin Farrell: Yes, often in science fiction, if another exists, whether as an android, an alien from another planet, or a technologically engineered human creation, he is often seen as a traitor or a malevolent threat. In After Yang, it’s different.
In the film, Yang is a conduit for uniting families. And technology and artificial intelligence are being used as a way to provide a sense of comfort, a sense of community, and a sense of love where it may not exist. And yet, man being so obsessed with himself and his own image that he does not realize the importance of his own creation.
I don’t think my character Jake knows how important Yang is to his daughter Mika. He is a member of the family and a pillar. And it’s only through the loss of Yang that he truly understands the void left by Yang’s absence. It’s a nice approach, quite different from what we know in science fiction.
Yang is also a connection between the past and the future for Mika since he speaks to him about his origins and his culture.
Colin Farrell: Yang is indeed an important cultural bridge. I am Irish and have lived in America for twenty years. There is a fine line between having respect for one’s cultural origins and delving into the maze of dangerous nationalism. I am very proud to be Irish but when it makes sense. And I think having an understanding of your cultural background is a very important thing.
If you don’t understand it, you may feel a bit adrift in the world. Whereas if you know where you come from, that you have an understanding of your origins and that it is a solid base, you can more afford to detach yourself from it without forgetting it.
And I think one of the great things that Yang gives Mika is this opportunity to have this base that his parents don’t really have – whether they’re too busy or they don’t have the ability or the skills. knowledge – to give her the kind of comfort she needs.
After Yang summons our relationship to the image, to mourning, to loss and to memory and the very poetic aesthetic of the film represents its themes through a sublime blend of nature and technology. How were the aesthetics and the decorations thought out?
Kogonada: I think as modern people we all feel a kind of alienation. You mentioned family or community, but I’m also talking about our connection to nature. I think that with progress, industrialization and modernization – although I am for progress – we face a feeling of real disconnection from the world, from the Earth and from each other.
I really wanted to try to reimagine a type of space in which it is necessary to return to these instinctive links and connections. And then to deal with the fundamental question of what a family really is, the one we choose for ourselves, the one we create for ourselves with connections.
The whole cast is amazing Justin H.Min, Jodie Turner Smith, Haley Lu Richardson, but the young Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja is a real revelation. How was the shooting of this very special film with these actors?
Colin Farrell: He’s an amazing human being, just like the rest of the open-minded, receptive actors I’ve worked with. We had little time but the filming took place in a very calm and peaceful way, just like the film. We were about forty people in all on this shoot, but everyone was aware of the cohabitation space we had and it was really magnificent. There was a sense of quiet community in this group that worked with ease and complicity.
And this atmosphere has impregnated us. But I think it also comes from the source material and Kogonada’s interpretation of it. We all brought our personal baggage and weaved it into the story we had to interpret. And everyone has brought their stone to the building. The beauty comes from our different experiences on common themes and the way we put them together. This shoot was a very special experience for me.
Interview by Mégane Choquet on June 27, 2022.