Award-winning ad filmmaker, Juan Cabral, makes his first feature film, Two/One - that explores logic and reality
Juan Cabral, the Argentinian ad filmmaker who is renowned for the Cadbury Gorilla commercial, the Ikea Beds and Sony Bravia coloured balls TV ads, has now debuted as a feature filmmaker with Two/One, which was released on OTT platform, Mubi, in October.
A beautifully shot and edited film, it follows two men who live in different continents but are strangely connected. Kaden (Boyd Holbrook) is a professional ski-jumper in Vancouver and Khai (Yang Song) is an advertising professional from Shanghai. Kaden, 35, is at the age of retirement, but he refuses to let go of his career. While Khai, who works at a top agency in the bustling city and lives in a plush apartment, is dealing with loneliness. What’s inexplicable is the way both these men are connected because of their sleeping patterns. While one of them wakes up, the other falls asleep.
“It’s like a mystery that I wanted to shed light on,” says Juan explaining why he chose to explore sleep this way. “While half the world is asleep, the other half is awake. It’s something like a balance and shift of energies, like yin and yang. I built the story with an architect’s point of view where I have looked at what happens when one of them wakes up at the moment when the other sleeps. I bound this story in a poetic way and explored what is logic and reality. I really challenged every notion about this concept because we don’t understand our own reality. The story is about the two characters but it offers a universal perspective about what it means to be alive,” he adds further.
It’s the tone of the film that’s engaging right from the beginning. The stunning cinematography captures vibrant visuals of buzzing Shanghai, and it also showcases pristine white, snow-capped mountains and the trees of Vancouver. The ensemble of these visuals makes the narrative richer. The camera follows both the protagonists in their starkly contrasting environments as both negotiate life in their own ways. “I wanted to show a completely desolate place where the skijumper is. He is only 35, but is feeling very lonely and is questioning life. On the other side, there is this super-busy guy (in Shanghai) who is very wellconnected, is doing really well, but is still lonely. They echo each other’s lives. The DOP Larry Smith (who has worked extensively with Stanley Kubrick) shot this film. We wanted clinical shots as if the universe is looking at humans and what’s happening to them without any judgement. It gives a very detached feeling,” explains Juan.
The sound of silence
The movie is punctuated with long, quiet and unhurried sequences. The film though slow-paced engages viewers with the characters and their situations. A dark-rimmed horizon with a glint of light and the background sound act as catalysts that take the story forward. “They say that people get to know each other truly well in their silences. I focused a lot on the sound of the film. It’s seductive and hypnotising . The film is quite demanding and I had to leave some space for the viewers to process it. I wanted it to appear like a book to the audience. The best books I believe are those that let me remember the feeling and emotion, it’s not necessary that I remember the story. I hope Two/One has this kind of effect… I would love for it to become like a dream for the audience,” offers the director.
Actor Boyd was the first person who read the script and immediately wanted to be a part of it. He was shooting for Logan when Juan met him. “I think he wanted to be a part of something that spoke to him. I went to New York. We went upstate and walked in the park for about four hours. We spoke about life and the part he would play. Then I looked for someone who would be the same height as him, and Song Yang was cast. Everyone who worked on this film did it out of passion,” he says. The film is currently streaming on Mubi, but has been screened at many festivals, after it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. While most people will watch the film either on their laptop or on their mobile phones, Juan signs off saying, “I feel the ultimate place to watch this film is on a plane when you are in a state of limbo.”