Winner: Martin Garde Abildgaard

We catch up with Martin Garde Abildgaard whose mesmerising film, Hypoxia, captured the jury’s attention at Cannes this year. 

Your poetic and surreal film is about the suffocating nature of stress. Was this story of a woman transferring between two parallel worlds of above and under water your response to a brief or did the brief include a detailed script and concept?

At Superette we focus on creating fascinating content and the process does not always have to be started up with a client, agency or brief – we also put ourselves in the driver’s seat, take action and create films in different ways. And that’s what happened with Hypoxia. The project started with a feeling – not a brief.

At first the aesthetics lead you to think it’s a fashion film, then you realise there’s another message here. Was that your intention?

When it comes to commercials I have earlier done various fashion films (for instance for Acne, Adidas, Vans and latest Baum und Pferdgarten, and I guess that kind of work also has influences on my more artistic work. I like to mix the genres.

It’s beautifully edited – did you collaborate closely with a team in the making of this?

The post production was a big part of this film. Not only animating the whales, but also to create the sound design. Together with sound designer and composer Dennis Lee, I created the entire sound design, and finished it 100%, before we edited one single frame. So when we started editing, it was like editing a music video, because we “only” needed to add images. That made the entire editing process different, and exiting, because there were already a lot of decisions made, which you usually do in editing.

What was behind your decision to shoot in black and white, well, a soft black and white?

Together with my DP Rasmus Heise I had a lot of conversations about doing this piece in either color or b/w. We ended up in b/w because we wanted to get rid of all possible distractions in the images like clothing, color temperature, differences in light, colorful backgrounds from the nature we shot in etc. etc. We wanted to put all focus on the subject.

What were the main challenges of the production?

One of the main challenges was to animate the whales, so their movement looked as natural as possible. Whales are often 30 meters long and weigh up to 200 tons – and we wanted to create a natural look where they where a sort of “flying” in the sky. Therefore we really needed to focus on the details to make it look as natural as possible; their bodies are shaped like a submarine, or the body of a plane. And their smooth rubbery skin and lack of hair contribute to the sleek body designed for speed in water. They swim forward by flexing their tails up and down, instead of side to side as with most fish. This was the exact feeling that we wanted to create. It took time, but ended up well, thanks to Peter Skov-Nielsen who was “head of whales” and post production.

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