by writer/director Juan Solanas
Twenty years ago, I was in Greece driving a Vespa when the beautiful but dangerous road I was on disappeared and I began to see images. Thankfully this image dissolved seconds before the road ended at the top of a precipice. It was very close! From that day forward, I never drove again. That’s the downside of “thinking in images,” while the advantage is that this is the way stories appear to me. It happened this way with The Man Without a Head, my first fiction film, again with Northeast, and again with Upside Down.
One morning in 2006, just after waking up, a very powerful image appeared to me the same way: I saw two mountains, one upside down on top of the other. From the top of the mountain right side up, a man was looking at a woman who stood on the top of the upside down mountain.
I was fascinated by this image and understood at that moment that they were in love, but that being together wasn't going to be easy.
Making a movie from my point of view is like having a child. It's a full commitment, and there's no way back. Every step requires all your love, your brain and your will.
Making a movie is like being in the middle of a war protecting your “child.” What I mean by war is that you have to deal with reality, money problems, weather, casting, scouting, technical issues, and even problems like currency variations, etc., etc., etc. In that chaos, your job is to make the best possible decisions for the movie. It’s a hard, beautiful fight! You must be deeply convinced of your vision and motivated before taking on that fight.
When I saw that image I knew it was going to be my next movie; albeit, a very challenging one! I woke my wife and told her I had a new movie to make, not knowing that at the end it would be a journey of seven years including two years living in Montreal, with our future two children!
That same afternoon I started to write.
My process is to start from the original image/vision and then pull an invisible rope waiting for what’s to come next. I like to be surprised when I see a movie and I get bored in those films that you know exactly what's going to happen in the next 20 or 40 minutes. So in my writing process I prefer, in a way, to go blind and try to fish for ideas in deep water, never knowing what's coming next. It's very stressful because there aren’t a lot of fish, but when you do catch one it's surprising and satisfying and worth the wait. This approach allows me to talk about reality but in a metaphoric way, through imagination. I am after all, an Argentinian guy, living Upside Down in the North, in the Upper world!
Then in a very deliberate way, I add a lot of sensory layers into the story, which allows the audience to have the richest journey possible and leaves them with a lot to think about. I don’t see the point of making a movie without speaking about the world we live in—especially in these complicated times. I just find that speaking in a metaphoric way allows the audience to take what they want and not have to absorb “fast-food-ideas-ready-to-be-taken” without using their brain!
While writing, I started to think about how double gravity would work. It was a challenge considering there are no examples of films with double gravity. And it was important to me to build a double gravity world in the most organic way possible: It's never good for an actor to say, “I love you” to a tennis ball! In Upside Down, the potential number of Tennis Balls could have been huge! Finding a way to shoot the movie in a “live” way was a priority.
During my first month of writing, I came up with the idea to shoot the two gravity scenes “live,” by constructing two half sets, one for each gravity. By using two cameras doing exactly the same movement in real time we were able to interact with the real action of the actors. In that way, we gave the actors the freedom to play together as they were speaking upside down in the same space, with the possibility to interact (acting is reacting!) improvise, etc., like in a normal set. We ended up developing a new digital technology by making Upside Down in the most analogical way!
Making a movie is always an incredible human adventure: A collective creation with a group of people sharing the same passion and giving everything for the betterment of the film. We were a team of 450 people during the shoot! So here I am seven years later writing about this journey. As you can imagine, it's a very special moment for me! I'm proud of this movie and hope you enjoy it.