On Capturing the Essence of the Silent Hill Experience and the Symbolism of the Creatures
Published Friday, March 17, 2006
As you say you have read the blogs and forums of Silent Hill fans, and I'm sure you've seen the fans going over screen captures with a magnifying glass comparing every available pixel of the film to the original games, having heart attacks over every detail that hasn't been duplicated exactly to their expectations. How do you feel about the expectations inherent to the adaptation of material with such a devoted and established fan base?
- Bogart S
Bogart, as I have mentioned before adapting a game is not like adapting a book. It is like a trip to a foreign country. We all have different memories of our travels but there will be common perceptions that we will all identify. We can all talk about having been to the same place referencing details even though we had completely different experiences.
Roger, Nicolas Boukhrief and I constantly compared our memories and impressions of the game and tried to identify the common perceptions that we shared. A corridor, a street, a line of dialogue - what are those qualities that make us know we are in Silent Hill?
As a fan I knew I had to be respectful of the original material but at the same time I knew I had to focus on the arch of the characters and the narrative from a filmmakers perspective. For both the fans of the games and non-gamers this was the only way to do a successful adaptation. You must also remember that my adaptation was done through the eyes of a Westerner not through the eyes of someone from the East. This movie just had to be different even though I hope I have successfully captured the essence of the Silent Hill experience.
The Silent Hill series has been known for the subtle symbolism in the creatures and the environments that pertains to the protagonist. Will this symbolism carry over to the movie?
- Vince G
Absolutely, yes. The creators of Silent Hill the game are so highly intelligent and used so many abstract and interesting references to create the creatures that of course it was such challenge for us to replicate this. Silent Hill the game heavily borrows from Modern Art especially the paintings of Francis Bacon. As in Bacon's art we see the monstrosity of his figures is actually a reflection of their souls. They are the embodiment of anxiety, fear and self-destruction and exist in world where cruelty is absolutely accepted. Hence the fact the creatures of Silent Hill are so absolutely unique. They are not your typical wait around a corner and jump out to scare you type. They are promiscuous pathetic and disturbing... standing naked in the middle of a room or alone on a street. Every fan of Silent Hill knows the creatures have been conceived by a child at least in the first game. They are the creation of Alessa's mind. They embody a strange, naïve, candid sense of cruelty that only a child can have. They are more like broken dolls than horrible creatures. As in the great classical text Dante's Inferno. Dante goes to hell and watches the dammed people and realizes the human condition. That is how we must perceive the monsters in Silent Hill. The real monsters are human.
On Adapting Silent Hill Lore, The Red Pyramid, and Using "Centralia" as a Temp Film Title
Published Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Christophe, what aspect of the Silent Hill lore did you find the most compelling and intriguing, and how did you use it in your film?
- Michael V
Perhaps the common link between all the stories of the Silent Hill world is the concept that this is a place where both reality and personality can be split.
I like the fact that this is where many dimensions intersect, and where you can exist on many planes. This fracturing between realities is reflected as a fracturing within a character. Characters can become multiple, like Mary and Maria in Silent Hill 2, and Alessa in SH1.
Because this is such an abstract concept, this was the most challenging aspect of trying to adapt the game. The first game tells the amazing story of an adult woman who also exists as two little girls, good and bad doubles representing who she was when she was hurt.
We are forced to realize in Silent Hill that we can be our own devil, our own God. This very Asian perception is so completely different to the Anglo/Christian concept of God and the Devil as separate beings.
So, what's the deal with Pyramid Head's head? That's not the way it's shaped. Maybe you might say its not the pyramid head we all know and love, to which I say: Ok, but what's the point of going all out to recreate the game's most famous antagonist but then take his head (for which he is named after) and change it entirely? Don't get me wrong - he looks super in the trailers, but would it have killed you guys to chamfer that leading edge he has?
- Ryan M
It is always interesting to take a CG character and try and make him real. Some time the logic of the design just can't work. The Japanese name for this character was actually 'Triangle Head.' It is not Pyramid Head or Red Pyramid as many fans call it. In fact, on his head is a basin and not a triangle at all. This shape works great as animation but it was impossible to make an authentic replica of the shape and actually have a real person move under it. We know as we tried. The big change in Red Pyramid for me was not his head as much as his body. In the game he has a very deformed body almost a hunchback. Instead we decided to make him a tall, powerful character a little like the Warrior God in " Stargate" that Patrick Tatopoulos created. Why? Because for me there is a little of Anibus, the Egyptian God of Death in the Red Pyramid.
Of course we consulted Konami and Akira Yamaoka with before signing of the new design which they were very enthusiastic about.
When Silent Hill the movie was first announced it had an alternate title. The title was "Centralia". Is there a truth to this and why if so?
- Mark M
I love this question. I was astonished by people's reaction to this title. The most important and obvious reason we called it "Centralia" was to keep the shooting secret. We didn't want the name Silent Hill to appear anywhere. The reason that we choose Centralia, which is a very famous ghost town in America is because it is actually is the basis of our script. Roger Avary discovered this town that had been destroyed by a coal fire and was completely uninhabitable. In the game, Silent Hill is also a mining town caught between the "Foggy" world and the "Darkness." Centralia was used as our reference to create a third dimension "Reality." I loved the fact that a lot of fans discovered that it was a clue.
On Preserving and Contributing to the Mythology of the Games
Published Friday, March 10, 2006
Hello Christophe. From all reports it looks like you're doing us all proud and that your fervor for the games is as strong as ours. It's obvious already you've remained very true to the mythos of the Order and the heart of the games. What have you changed?
- SilentHylian X
Thank you for supporting the movie it is really great to feel that the Game fans are backing this project. This is really important to me.
The backstory of Silent Hill was not only the story of Alessa but a much older story about the first burning of the Arch Witch, Jennifer Carol. That burning has defined Silent Hill as the ground for the primeval battle between the 'perception of good and the perception of evil.'
We realized at once that we were not dealing with a small story but dealing with a whole saga. With the support of our Producer Samuel Hadida we decided to write what would be the first film of a series. We then had the luxury of exploring in depth just one part of this huge story. Unlike the game we are able to develop the characters and make them more complex and organize the eclectic mythology of all the games into one clear story. This is the biggest difference between the film and the game. I think the fans will understand any variations are because we have been ambitious. Akira Yamaoka and the Silent Hill team have supervised this project from the beginning so I hope between us all we have been successful in keeping to the true mythology of the game.
I know the movie is based mostly off SH1, and has bits of SH2, and 3... but are there ANY references to SH4? Also, are all the monsters taken from the games such as Pyramid Head and the nurses or did you create some exclusively for the movie? Thank you
- Guillermo C
For me SH 4 is one of one of the best in terms of visuals and framing of all the games, so yes I definitely used some details from SH4.
We did create a new monster called the Janitor. We had a scene in the movie where one of the characters goes into a restroom and hears some crying in a cubicle, she goes to see where it is coming from, she opens the door and there is nothing there. 2 days before we were to shoot this scene I decided we needed to have something shocking in the cubicle. I went to talk with Paul Jones and his SPFX makeup team and we talked about how we could create a new monster. Of course the big question was "what did this guy DO to deserve to become a monster?" This question was pivotal in helping us determine the look. So, in just 2 days we designed and created him. I was actually a little nervous about it because we had to have all the monsters approved by Akira Yamaoka and Konami. So when Akira came to visit us in post-production. I showed him and luckily he loved it. In fact he asked if he could use it for a future game. He is the only creature that does not already exist in the game. He is my humble contribution to the Silent Hill Mythology.
On Harry Mason, the WonderCon Footage, and Capturing the Horror of the Game
Published Monday, March 6, 2006
Silent Hill looks very good thus far, but Mr. Gans I have to ask why it is that you didn't stay true to the story and use the father, Harry Mason? In an interview you mention that the main character was changed to a woman because you believed Harry's qualities were feminine but isn't the protection and well being of a child the responsibility of every parent?
- Stuart A.
I think when Roger Avary and Nickolas Boukhrief and I started to work on the project we assumed, because we are all fans of the game, that we would start writing with Harry Mason as our lead.
It quickly became clear however Harry never acted like a masculine character. He was constantly dizzy, fainting, talking to himself, screaming and in fact was very vulnerable. We didn't want to betray the nature of the game by changing the character's feelings and motivations, so we felt it was better to change to a female protagonist and retain all those important qualities. I don't want people to think that I have been "politically correct" because we changed Harry into Rose. There is no political correctness in Silent Hill.
It's important to mention that we were conscious that allowing the Gamers to have to face a new character would help in the transition from Silent Hill the Game to Silent Hill the Movie.
The footage at WonderCon - was it intentionally super shocking, and what effect was desired?
- Christian W.
It was intentionally supershocking!
The trailer went out into the theatres a month or so ago. Of course there were many restrictions in regard to the intensity and the violence of the images that could be used. I was concerned that this trailer could be perceived as a little tame to the fans of the game. The movie is anything but tame. The movie is pretty brutal, intense and disturbing. I wanted to send a message saying the movie is going to be full of surprises. After Wondercon we could see everywhere on the web that the fans were confident that we were going to be respectful of the game and its intensity. Yes, we received the desired effect.
As a huge Silent Hill fan, I have high hopes for this film. It would seem that you really want to capture the psychological horror of the game, which is great because that's what the game is best known for. But are you putting equal effort into the gore of silent hill? It is a mature series after all and the games definitely doesn't pull punches when it really wants you to know that. Will your film reflect this element well?
- Allen W.
Allen, its true that we wanted to stay true to the idea that the horror of Silent Hill was psychological. Our key to being true to this was good casting and design.
It was very clear to me that the casting would reflect our intention to make a serious movie. Instead of casting unknown, attractive teenagers our cast was made up of strong actors from independent, auteur, high class pictures. We allowed time to cover the individual arc of each character and explore them and the games mythology at an appropriate pace.
The atmosphere, aesthetic, palette of colors, sound design and music are all very disturbing.
The aesthetic of the game and that disturbing quality is what attracted me to directing this film in the beginning. But it is impossible to create a movie of Silent Hill and not put the horror and indeed gore on the screen.