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[InC-terview] Action Film Director Roel Reiné on 'Admiral'!

By Flora  /  11 May 2016 (Wednesday)

InCinemas spoke to Roel Reiné, director of many action films like ’The Man with the Iron Fists 2’ and ‘Death Race’ prequels. Reiné was in Singapore to attend the premiere of the 26th European Union Film Festival (EUFF) where his latest feature film Admiral, is selected as the opening film of the 13-day festival. 

‘Admiral’, a.k.a. ‘Michiel de Ruyter', is an epic historical Dutch-language movie about a 17th Century Admiral, Michiel de Ruyter, who protects the Dutch population from a civil war between two political factions while defeating English armadas in massive sea-battles. 

Reine shares with us the inspiration behind the film, his green screen-less battle sequences, and the technical challenges during the 42-day shoot. 

InCinemas: Admiral tells a story about a 17th-century Dutch admiral Michiel de Ruyter, how much of it did you want it to be historically accurate? 

I wanted it to be historically-correct as possible but you can’t, because you are also making a modern piece of cinema that you want a young and a broad audience be entertained. So the biggest thing I did was I created the ages for all these characters. And then we told the story of a period of nine months, but really, it is a history of 27 years. By making it look like it took place in nine months, the audience can better identify with the characters, and follow their emotional journey much faster. 

If we were to talk about historical correctness, a lot of research had been done to make sure it was accurate. I researched on all the sea battles, how the ships move and even wrote original letters that were written by the original historical figures.

InCinemas: Was this a decision made from the start?

Yes, it is the first thing I did. I want to make a movie with an emotional journey (of its characters) and that was really an important thing for me. 

InCinemas: Apart from the big explosion and action scenes, there is also an emotional journey that the audience go through with the characters. How challenging was it for you to balance both the action and the drama in this film? 

Balance between drama and action is difficult. It’s a skill and it’s something you need to do over and over again. You have to edit and re-edit (the film) to find the right balance… all these take time. You need to balance it in the screenplay; you need to balance it during the shoot and you need to balance in during the edit. When we had the first cut of the movie, it was about 3.5 hours long, and there was way too much action in it. We took a lot out because we want you to feel more from the characters than seeing another sea battle. It is like when you’re painting, you paint with one colour, then you add another colour and another colour, creating another version of it; you take this out, add something in… and in the end, you’ll find that balance.

InCinemas: Tell us more about the war battles in the movie, and how challenging was it filming it without a green screen. 

I definitely didn’t want to do a green screen because I want to make it look very real. The emotions come out when it’s real.

We had three historical ships on set, and we filmed in a big lake in the centre of Holland. We built a little dam with a little dock and so that we could put the ship against it. As the ship was docked, I could have easy access with actors, cameras, special effects, and explosions on it. It takes about an hour-and-a-half for it to reset, so while waiting, we shot other things and then come back and do another master shot. 

Everyday, we will take these ships out to sail for an hour or so, and that’s where I’ll take the shots with drones or a helicopter or with camera boats, all these shots were used by the visual effects guys to then add those ships in the background. What you see like a scene with 20 boats, is actually duplicated boats of the three warships we had. 

InCinemas: How about the explosions?

The explosions are also not CG-ed. Because we worked on real ships that were 17th-century replicas, they were very precious to us and so we could not destroy them. I could not explode it, and I could not even use fake blood. I could not do fake blood because they were afraid it will stain the wood and will destroy the ship. We used compressed air cannons to simulate the explosion scenes.

InCinemas: Was those the hardest to shoot? 

Everything was difficult… it was really an overall a big logistic challenge. We filmed the entire movie in 42 days. I started designing the sea battles a year before we started shooting. I had miniature boats in my office and I did little movements of the ship; from there, we made storyboards and plot the sequences, then we had the visual effects in it… it is a big technical process.

InCinemas: What is the message you would like to tell your audience through this film?

For the Dutch audience, I want to a make a movie that the Dutch can be proud of. For me, it is very important for the Dutch audience to be aware of admiral Michiel de Ruyter's journey and what he had done. 

For the international audience, I want to make a movie that will showcase a part of history that was very important for us not only as Dutch people, but also as Europeans, I also want to show the people living in the world that are trying to be free, away from kingdoms, old traditions, and be a democratic government. It shows what kind of sacrifices you need to take to go there.

InCinemas: Will we see you shooting your next movie in Singapore?

 I would love to do a movie in Singapore! A big modern action movie where I can fly a chopper above the Marina Bay Sands, and use the beautiful streets and the buildings here!

Don't miss the screening of Admiral tomorrow, 12 May, as part of the EUFF 2016!
(Check out the showtimes here!)
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