Color | B & W
“I have always been drawn to horror; that's where I exorcize and explore the darkness within me...
As a film genre, I am impressed by horror’s impeccable strength to move us and show us possibilities we avoid in our every day lives. In 1974, I wanted to explore that strength, a sophisticated and elegant horror that would compel spectators to face their own terror, and what exemplifies terror more than the lurking of the unknown. I therefore sought to keep up that tension throughout the film; I could have —from the beginning— presented uncertainty by creating monsters, but it was important not to reveal anything until the end because no monster I create will be greater than the monsters and demons every person harbours. When faced with unexpected events, we come up with the same questions we ask ourselves when we are affected by an experience. What happened? Why did it happen? What does it mean? 1974 is an invitation for viewers to go to and investigate their own depths, that darkness that terrifies us, that place where our most precious treasure is hidden: what we are.”
—Victor Dryere | Director
Victor Dryere has been driven by a loneliness and strangeness —experienced on the edge of the unknown— to make films as the only means of multiplication and survival. 1974 is a portal that explores the unknown forces that lurk in the depths of who we are. The idea of the film begins when the director finds his grandparents’ super-8 projector and plays his newlywed parents’ tapes, where he realizes that the images filmed in that format show a tinge of something deeper, somewhat dark that permeates in an apparently mundane moment. He then imagines what it would be like to find 8mm reels in an abandoned house, where the footage could reveal a horror story from the seventies. And so 1974 is born, the quest to portray the horror and anguish a couple experiences where the unknown lurks. Proposing a cinematic narrative that surges from memory cuts, elucidating what characters experience, in a type of perception that goes beyond what is registered by the camera.
“With 1974, I wanted to fuse together the narrative of found footage and the narrative of fiction cinematography in general; using a level of realism and intimacy that the first-person narrative offers, but including narrative tools that enable us to explore other states of perception.”
“I didn’t want to tell a story recreated in the seventies; I wanted to tell a story as though it were really filmed by a couple in 1974 in Mexico, a footage released today after being tucked away for over forty years. In order to get that visual treatment, it was essential to shoot in 8mm, thus giving every element of the film the original feel of that era. The viewer would hence be able to travel through time —stepping away from what he sees and experiences every day— to enter a more intimate atmosphere and witness firsthand the tension and terror of the unknown. It was also important for me to tell the story in a fragmented fashion, with abrupt cuts, alluding to the way in which memories are stored in our minds.
Filming in 8mm translated into many challenges: cameras are very noisy; the film has too much grain, making it almost impossible to integrate visual effects on top of the grainy image; the reels have a film capacity of approximately two minutes; and at that time, 8mm cameras had no output to see the image on a monitor. This was further complicated by limited time and a tight budget, making it impossible to shoot, develop the film and use it as a guide to see what the image looked like. We also did not know what the grain would look like on a cinema screen. The cinematographer and I went to a specialized place in Los Angeles, Pro 8mm, and bought the least noisy camera in the market; we also modified it to change the aspect ratio from 4:3 to 16:9 in order to obtain a rectangular format for the screens. On set, we realized the noise made by the camera was far worse than we had anticipated; it would be picked up —excessively so— by the boom and lavalier. We ran the first direct sound checks using an audio editing program and found out it would be impossible to completely remove the sound the camera makes, but I decided to go ahead with the shoot. As I had no video assist and because our budget only allowed for three takes per shot, we used a digital camera to define the frame, camera movement and actor choreography. Once all the elements were defined, we filmed with the 8mm camera. I focused on the feeling I got from the actors, everybody on set was clear on where this was headed and I completely trusted the cinematographer. However, as I had no monitor, I was not sure whether what I saw and what we had rehearsed would be seen the same way on-screen.
“It took three years of postproduction to get to today’s 1974, a film that perhaps was really shot in the seventies.”
Once we finished the shoot, we went to Los Angeles to get the film developed and it was then I realized that the different ASAs we used had produced a very different type of grain from one shot to another. Most of the film had an aberration and some shots were framed in black. I also realized that the lens, the focal length and the amount of light captured by the 8mm camera is completely different compared to the digital camera we rehearsed with. I hence found myself with a different movie than the one I thought I had filmed. As a result, I had to do three exhaustive re-shoots until I had the movie that I visually wanted. Regarding the direct sound, very few takes worked. The camera made different sounds, which at times were very high pitched and would vary depending on how far the actors were. We thus had no other choice but to re-record dialogue (ADR) for 70% of the film. It took three years of postproduction to get to today’s 1974, a film that perhaps was really shot in the seventies.”
“...I wanted the source of horror to speak with the strength of its origin, deep sounds that would pace the levels of anguish, menacing silences and sounds that also revealed the source that dwells in all of us...”
How could one talk about the unknown without the presence of its sound? In 1974, sound and music are essential for the narrative between the invisible presence and the inner aspect of the characters. “Stalking and seduction had to be present throughout the film, making evident the experience we —humans— have when facing the unknown. On one side it can be sinister, activating our survival instincts; but in turn it connects us with the source that keeps us alive. I have always been drawn to the subliminal, everything we perceive even if the mind does not realize it. And I wanted sound to be the direct path through which I could establish a conversation with the viewer’s subconscious. I looked for different channels through which that source of horror could be present in the characters’ lives, without giving away where it came from. The channels I used included the telephone, radio, television and even the camera. In order to give that menacing presence a voice in every channel, we explored specific and distorted sounds that haunted us as children, among which are roars, cries, mating calls, nails scratching walls, sounds made by machinery and medical instruments. We also stopped and listened to —and translated— the creating force that resonates within us, achieving a wrapping and source movement through different layers. In this sense, music could never be the source of terror, but rather what points to the characters’ experience when faced with the unknown. In order to translate that inner experience, we created music with commonly found objects such as Styrofoam, curtains, horns, glasses and a few musical instruments. We used everything that could give a voice to fear, to uncertainty, to what man experiences when faced to what he doesn’t know.” In 1974, sound is an imminent force constantly calling out, pushing us to the limit of uncertainty where a true questioning begins, erasing the threshold between the horror of all sinister and the horror of the creating forces.
Pablo Guisa K.
Mirtha de la Garza
Nayeli de Alba