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Be With Me

When cinematographer Jiang Haoxun sat down with director Chenlin Qian to discuss working together on the film Be with Me, their sources of core ideas were eclectic to say the least. The goal was to create a film based on the story of pianist Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann that was somewhat loosely inspired by Austrian director Michael Haneke’s movie Amour (2013 Academy Award Winner for Best Foreign Language Film). The tone would be modernized to that of a 1980’s sentimental romance. These two filmmakers felt that this concept created an ideal opportunity to combine European classical music with the American visual language. One reason for Chenlin’s decision to bring Jiang onto this film is his connection with music. Jiang describes, “You can feel the melody of the picture from the works of an outstanding director of photography. Before shooting, Chenlin sent me all the music we would use in the movie, so I got the chance to feel the rhythm and tone of these pieces. When we shot the “piano” scene, I set up the camera on the danna dolly and followed the music to catch the actor’s emotions. I like to feel that my camera dances with the performance.”

In the story, a repressed pianist [Lance] falls in love with his teacher’s wife while living in their house as he prepares for his concert. A year after the elder male teacher has passed away, Lance returns to profess his love to the widow Clara. In an attempt at subtlety, Lance uses music to approach her but it only serves to remind Clara of her deceased spouse. Confused, she kisses the young pianist and he returns in kind. When Clara later realizes what she has done, she commits suicide and leaves Lance to struggle with the tragedy.

While he has contributed his talent to a number of differing genres, there’s an earthy grounding quality to Haoxun’s work that communicates introspection rather than shock (also exhibited clearly in the film Mr. Lopez for which Jiang received the award for Best Cinematography at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival). While the vast majority of the film is cold with low saturation, the scene in which Lance and Clara play piano together warms prominently but later returns to a cold fashion upon Clara’s death. The DP describes, “There’s something really intriguing about the 80s that lends itself to the heart of this story. A lot of modern technology was just beginning and not yet so widely used. People wrote letters rather than emails, they interacted rather than staring at smartphones. The different pace of life and the desire to create your own entertainment and relationships was vastly different than the social interaction of today. The movie is really about connection. We wanted to place the viewer in a time that was simultaneously familiar and odd to them. This represents what Lance feels in the film; he wants to belong but it never quite works out in the way that he wants it to.”

Be With Me Reviewed by JaamZIN on 7:57:00 PM Rating: 5
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