Film Theme, Message, and Visuals
HN: What is the main message or experience you want to deliver to the audience through this film?
Patrick Imbert: First of all, I want the audiences to come out of the film having had a good time, to not get bored. After that, if they’re touched by the characters and think about the quest of seeking perfection and personal development, then it’s perfect.
HN: Why do you think scaling dangerous mountains captivates climbers like Habu, despite the endeavor being life-threatening? And why do their adventures seem to resonate very well to the general public, in your opinion?
Patrick Imbert: If mountains weren’t dangerous, there wouldn’t be an interest in Habu, nor in the alpinists needing a challenge to live for. Danger is part of the game.
All things considered, we all have our own set of challenges and this is the reason such stories speak to us. And, it must be acknowledged that mountain stories, with everything they bring, adventure, challenges and sometimes even death, are very well suited to melodrama, and by extension, cinema.
HN: What part of the original manga did you find the most attractive, and how did you reflect that into the film?
Patrick Imbert: It was impossible to fit 1,500 pages of manga in a 90 minute film. So, I left out the secondary plots to focus on the two main characters. I’d rather address fewer topics well than to mistreat many. And I felt those characters journey was well-suited for the film structure.
HN: In addition to the previous question, what did you take care in the most when the team is creating the visual design for the film?
Patrick Imbert: A director must pay attention to everything! In my case, I’m first and foremost an illustrator and have been an animator for many years, so I pay special attention to details and precision in the characters representation. An attitude, a side look, a slightly arched back, a head slightly tilted, an inspiration, hesitating fingers, etc., I love to polish those details to make the characters convincing. Working with me can drive animators crazy, so better be prepared (laugh).
HN: Have you had any discussions about the film’s story and visuals with Mr. Taniguchi?
Patrick Imbert: I didn’t get the chance to meet Mr. Taniguchi, but I love his work and I did my best for him to like it and recognize himself into it. Sometimes, when facing a staging problem, I’d imagine having conversations with him to find the best solution. I might be wrong but I like to think he would have liked the end result or at the very least, my efforts to tend towards his universe.
HN: What were the greatest challenges or difficulties you’ve faced, in terms of the creative side of the film project?
Patrick Imbert: Making an animated feature film is a challenge in and of itself, as you never have enough time nor money to do everything you’d want, but it’s also a known fact to professionals within that field. To me the most difficult part, the one that kept me awake at night, is simply narration: to tell a good story. Now that’s a challenge! We tend to forget it because we are surrounded by stories and we consume a lot of them, but telling a good story isn’t that easy.
HN: When it comes to staging with the characters, what were your goals and what did you take special care in?
Patrick Imbert: Like I mentioned before, even the tiniest detail has its importance, everything has a purpose, and nothing is there randomly. Everything has to contribute to the scene’s theme, and it’s true for not only drawings but also for animation. I conceive scenes as a choreography, with every element being set up and animated with a logic akin to a dance.
HN: It was impressive for me that the background art not only portrays the magnificence yet harshness of the mountains in front of the audience, but also sets the mood of each scene effectively.
Could you please let us know the stories behind the creation of the background art for the film, especially where you’ve paid special attention in their artistic direction and for what reasons?
Patrick Imbert: Our goal with the artistic director was to not only describe the mountain but to mostly give it an impression. There was a lot of colour script work to find the different atmosphere within the film, and we worked with photographic references or live action cinema rather than animation, in order to avoid the animation mannerism.
HN: We would like to hear about the story behind the music for the animation that you can share with us. How did Amine Bouhafa get involved with the project?
Patrick Imbert: I didn’t know Amine before, and it was an amazing meeting. We both are “researchers” and it allowed us to get along very well. I had, from the very beginning, the desire to have a score based on two major principles: the first one being the “Hollywood” type, with the music emphasizing emotions, and it is relatively easy to do as you can use the universal codes governing it. For the second one, mostly accompanying the mountain climbing scenes, I wanted something more lunar, undefined, mystic and nature-like; in short a whole lot of intangible stuff. I drew inspiration from progressive rock, Pink Floyd or Alan Parson’s Project. Amine took everything into account and added his own twist to it; he searched a lot and found it. I really love that score.
HN: In addition to the previous question, how was your experience working with Amine, including the composing process and recording?
Patrick Imbert: Working with Amine was super fluid. I had him redo a lot of things but he always had the kindness of not reminding me how much work that was, and he was always listening to my opinions. We saw each other a lot in his small studio to research together. Looking back, I can say his part in the general narration was very important. The recording sessions looked amazing, but because of the pandemic, I sadly couldn’t be there in person, which is really regrettable.