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Interview with Ferdinando D'Urbano actor, writer, producer of The Laplace's Demon
By James Whittington, Tuesday 28th August 2018
A stand-out movie from FrightFest 2018 tested the brain power of those who saw it. The Laplace's Demon is an incredibly powerful piece so we chatted to one of the creatives behind it, Ferdinando D'Urbano.
HC: I'd never heard of Laplace's Demon theory before, can you give us a quick explanation of what it is?
FDU: The Laplace's Demon is a philosophical theory of the early 1800s. Pierre Simon Laplace was a French mathematician who in his work "Essai philosophique sur les probabilites" (A philosophical essay on probabilities), theorized that if there were an intellect capable of knowing all the forces that regulate the universe and all the positions of all objects at a given moment, it would be able to reconstruct the past and future history of every single object.
HC: Whose idea was it to take this theory and make a movie about it?
FDU: We had been working on the preparation of a film thriller/horror for two years. The theme was based on the relationship between destiny and free will. We had already started filming when Giordano Giulivi (director and screenwriter), deepening a bit 'the topic "mechanism" came across Laplace and his theory. It perfectly represented the sense of the experiment of the professor of our film. So we decided to insert the Laplace's theory in the film, rewrite the script and to name the film The Laplace's Demon.
HC: It's a complex piece, did it take a long time to lock the script down?
FDU: It took at least two years of writing. From the idea, elaborated by all four authors, Duccio and Giordano Giulivi have been very meticulous in writing the screenplay and careful not to leave any event to chance. Everything had to work like a clock, a bit like the model in history, with all the gears in the right place and working. To do this, as for all the various stages of the film, it took a long time because each of us was busy in their work and we had only our free time.
HC: Did you write your part yourself or was that down to the other writers?
FDU: Herbert is a character a bit 'special. Without spoiler I can say that it was not particularly difficult to write his character. The others were decidedly more complex. Herbert is inserted in the film as a silent and ambiguous element, with its gear so that all the other characters can be well interlocked.
HC: Which scene was the hardest to shoot?
FDU: As an actor but above all as a Director of photography I can say that the most difficult scene to realize was that of the elevator. From a technical point of view it was a bit complex. We needed to synchronize the rear-projection video with another front projection (some moving shadows) in order to give a realistic effect to the shots. In addition there were 8 characters within the shots and if we consider that we had very little space to make the whole movie, in total a 4x4 meters room, I could say that it was a real miracle to realize it.
HC: Why shoot in black and white?
FDU: Black and white was a stylistic choice. We thought this was perfectly suited to the kind of story we wanted to tell. We could have played a lot with chiaroscuro to give an "expressionist" effect to the atmosphere and we are very happy with the final result. In such a context, ours was also a tribute to a whole series of authors inspired by us, such as Val Lewton, Robert Wise, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Wells for some atmospheres. We were inspired by classic American cinema.
HC: The movie is a mix between The Twilight Zone and the classic "whodunit" novels of Agatha Christie, would you agree and are you a fan of these?
FDU: The comparison with The Twilight Zone was a bit of a discovery for us. We did not think about this series while making the film. However we recognize many elements in common and this reference makes us very happy. Certainly the inspiration to Agatha Christie is instead evident, especially to the film adaptation of "And then there were none" by Rene Clair. We authors of the "Demon" are lovers of the genre and certainly in making the film we have inserted, consciously and unconsciously, a whole series of "noir" or "mystery" elements that have always attracted us since we were kids.
HC: You're an actor, writer, producer to name but a few, which role is the hardest and which one is the most fun?
FDU: I'm the Director of Photography too, and probably the most difficult and fun part at the same time was this role. I had never done the photography of a movie before and it was a fantastic adventure. I had the opportunity to field testing my ideas, playing with lights and shadows, always in continuous dialogue with the director Giordano. And I have to thank him and also the whole work group for the freedom I had on set and the fun (mixed with fatigue!) thanks to the wonderful atmosphere that was on set.
HC: So, what are you working on next?
FDU: At this moment, me and the "Demon" team are planning another film project. In the meantime, I am also writing a documentary (being very interested also in the history of art) on a disappeared Roman Baroque villa.
HC: Ferdinando D'Urbano, thank you very much.
FDU: Thanks to you. It was a pleasure!
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