‘Vesper’ builds brave new world

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Lots of movies depict post-apocalyptic dystopian worlds but few construct them as well as “Vesper.”

“We were going for what we call biofantasy,” says Bruno Samper in an interview with ScreenReflections conducted at Fantastic Fest 2022 in Austin, Texas where “Vesper” made its U.S. premiere.

Samper, from France, co-directed the film with Kristina Buozyt, who hails from Lithuania. The pair also co-directed the “Knell” segment from “ABCs of Death,” and collaborated on “Vanishing Waves,” both from 2012.

“Technology will evolve into bio-technology,” explains Samper.

In “Vesper” genetically modified seeds only produce a single crop. Survivors live by their wits off the land. Plants have mutated into sentient existence. Meanwhile, the rich live in a citadel far away from common misery.

The lead character Vesper, a young woman played by Raffiella Chapman as an eloquent rebel, finds a survivor in a crashed vehicle from the protected city, which sets the wheels of the plot in motion. Vesper begins a treacherous journey through a wilderness where nature has become as deadly as humanity in an attempt to take the crash victim back to the citadel.

“The survivors are trying to decode the DNA of the plants” says Samper.

Eddie Marsan plays one such survivor trying to hack the seeds, although his character may be motivated by less than altruistic goals.

“Vesper” achieves a very unique futuristic and often dark look. Cinematographer Feliksas Abrukauskas would show the directors pictures of Rembrandt paintings. “We purposely avoided flat lighting,” says Samper.

The score was composed by Dan Levy before the film was shot. Many of the shots, like the climatic final scene, were timed to the already recorded music. “The music flows like a stream of consciousness,” says Samper. “Each character has themes like Prokofiev in ‘Peter and the Wolf.’”

The most unique character is a drone that will steal the hearts of viewers. “It’s our own version of BB-8” smiles Samper.

The drone has a shell and face and a mind of its own. The film constructed multiple versions using carbon fiber. “The challenge was to have a drone with a design that could actually fly,” says Samper.

The final film incorporates the real drone, and then a small crew commanding a drone on a fishing pole, along with select CGI drone shots.

At one point early in the festival tour one of six drones used for promotion was lost. “Between the plane and the hotel it went missing,” says Samper. The filmmakers put up lost-kitten posters asking if anybody had seen the drone.

“Vesper” has been making the rounds of international film festivals and opens domestically on September 30 in select theaters and via streaming platforms.

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