Wonderstruck: Press conference with Todd Haynes, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams and Millicent SimmondsCannes Film Festival 2017
An adaptation of Brian Selznick’s popular young adult novel, Wonderstruck has been well-received by critics, and may be the festival’s first major Oscar contender. Its central cast is mainly composed of children – two of which, Jaden Michael and Millicent Simmonds (who came with her own sign language interpreter), were able to attend Cannes. The supporting ranks are filled by Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore, in her fourth collaboration with Carol director Todd Haynes.
Translating the novel to the screen was not just a matter of compressing the story. The novel is separated into prose and illustrations – representing 1977 and 1927, respectively – which in the film are turned into traditional colour photography and black-and-white silent cinema, an idea that Haynes praised as “intensely cinematic… On the page, it paid acute attention to sound and music, which, to a filmmaker, was irresistible material to think about”.
The director has a habit of making period pictures, which, he argues, “force me to look back at cinema history”. Yet he was particularly drawn to the physical properties of Wonderstruck, which focuses on the childlike appeal of models and museums. “The tactile things – the glue, the ink on your fingertips… This was stuff I did as a kid, and…kids still need to do stuff like this.”
Julianne Moore may not assume a leading role, but she often steals the film. She found playing a character who communicates through sign language interesting: “It boiled down to how we communicate, and what language is… You’re always, as a human being, looking for a way to communicate. And understanding a culture… It was my first experience with deaf culture, and I was very lucky to see how that worked.”
Haynes, himself, seemed humbled by his extensive history with Moore. “[She’s] an amazing through-line in my career. I was stunned by the sense that I’d found a soulmate…who found this character on the page and brought something that I could barely imagine.” Moore repaid the compliment: “He’s an absolute genius… You don’t have to do anything! He’s set it all up – the cinematic world – and all you have to do is walk in.”
Inevitably, the subject of Netflix cropped up again. Yet Wonderstruck was funded by Amazon, and Haynes was quick to make the distinction and sing their praises: “The film division at Amazon is made up of true cineastes, who really love movies… Me and [cinematographer] Ed Lachman shot the movie on negative, in the wide aspect ratio, and it’s an homage to cinema itself – the experience of seeing something on the big screen – and I think that’s something that Amazon’s very passionate about.”
Photo: Andreas Rentz / Getty Images
Read our review of Wonderstruck here.
Read more of our reviews from the festival here.
For further information about Cannes Film Festival 2017 visit here.