Cinema Interviews

Watching the sound

{mosimage}Once again,
the reputed Finnish filmmaker Mika Kaurismäki focuses on music with the
documentary Sonic Mirror. Guided by legendary jazz drummer Billy Cobham,
Kaurismäki’s camera travels to different parts of the world to present music as
one universal language. From Espoo to the kids in the streets of Brazil to an
community of autistic people in Switzerland to the primal music in Nigeria,
Sonic Mirror is a vibrant trip where there is rhythm is the only language. The
film premieres in Finland this Sunday as part of Espoo Ciné festival
and Mika speaks to FREE! about it.

{sidebar id=10}What is Sonic Mirror for you?

It’s an
attempt to demonstrate that rhythm is one of the main things in human life. It
is something that unites all of us. It does not matter where you are. It’s a
universal language.

Billy Cobham, a drummer who played in Miles
Davis’ Bitches Brew and with John McLaughlin's
Orchestra, is the central figure of the film, but Sonic Mirror is nothing
similar to biography.

We decided
from the beginning that we didn’t want to make a portrait of Billy. That would
have been too easy and obvious even for him. We wanted to do something
different. Billy Cobham is the central figure, but Sonic Mirror is not just a
portrait of him. That would be a completely different thing because he’s
involved in so many activities. We wanted to make a film about rhythm and

How did you translate rhythm into the language of

Cinema is
also rhythm. I think music and cinema are very close. In both of them there’s
nothing concrete. Everything comes from imagination. It is hard to think of a
movie without music. Even silent movies had music.

You worked on this movie without a previously
written screenplay. Like in music you had to improvise. How was the experience?

In the
beginning the only idea I had is that music and rhythm are a universal
language. In many occasions, like with the autistic people, we didn’t know what was going to come out of it. It was an experiment. It was impossible to
write a screenplay. You can't tell beforehand how autistic people react to music.
It was the same thing in Brazil. I shot in different stages. In one year, I
shot during five or six different periods. I shot a bit and then thought what to do
next. I was writing the film with my camera.

Did you change much during those stages while
the film was in production?

I changed
some things. For example, I didn’t use anything of some shooting session. It’s
not because it was bad or I wasn’t happy, but somehow when I found the right
line between the autistic, the poor street kids in Brazil and the Nigeria
scenes, everything was in place. That shows how the music is born in its tribal
mode. It’s like the heartbeat. Then there was no room for many things I shot
before, but I will make some other products with it, some dvd or something

It was
during editing When the film really took shape. We had around 200 hours of
material so the editing was very challenging. When I think back to that moment,
I realize that we got most of the final film in the first cut, but then we
changed the order of some things. It was very complicated, indeed. It was like
writing the script after shooting.

What are the plans for the material that is not
included in the documentary?

We filmed
much. We have a lot of material about Billy Cobham’s life. There will be
something about it. Also we want to release the Cobham’s concert at April Jazz
with the UMO Jazz Orchestra. It will be a DVD of the complete show and maybe
some extra material like interviews, making of and more.

Do you have any plans for the future?

making three music documentaries, I’m planning some fiction. I’m writing the
script now and I will do it in Finnish and I will shoot in Finland.

Sonic Mirror
at Espoo Ciné – Sunday 26.6 at 19.15 in Louhisali, Tapiola. More information and tickets:

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