Another part of your mission with this film is to push for more filmmakers to use 96 frames per second. If you just do a cursory search on cinematography blogs, everybody talks about how tough and finicky it can be to shoot in this frame rate. There also aren't many projectors in theaters that can handle that frame rate. How were you able to overcome some of the more difficult technical aspects of shooting, and why is it so important for you to evangelize this specific frame rate?
Kossakovsky: There are many aspects, I can talk endlessly about this. To make a long story short, a few years ago I was making kids documentary, which already does not exist. I was making film about little ballerina, a little girl who is a ballet dancer. She was making fouetté, and I realize when anytime she turns on one leg, she is turning fast, and I notice I cannot see her face. I just see something blurry, I cannot see her reaction. And in her face, a lot of reaction because her mother is there, her friends are there. The jury, best ballet dancer of the world watching her dancing. So she's full of emotion, she's afraid to fall because she makes fouetté, she's counting music, she's afraid to fall. And then she's achieving it -- you want to see her face. But in all this, you don't see anything. So I started to experiment with frame rate, and I realized that 48 is already good. 60 is good. 72 is good, but 96 is perfect.
So then I started filming water, I made few months research, and I came to same conclusions: 96 frames per second is the perfect... when you see every drop separate. Not just rain like stripes, but every drop separate. But I need to explain to you, I will make it a little bit too simple. First of all, you need to know, to film fast frame rate is not a big deal. Because every day, everyone who watch TV and see commercial of beer, he sees thousand frames per second. It's not 96. The question is not to film fast frame rate, but to film 96 frames per second, and show film in 96 frames per second, which will give you impression of real time. If I film 96 frames per second, but I will project in 24, it will be slo-mo. But if I projected at 96, and film in 96, then it will be real time. But you will see much more, much more.
We came to 24fps because 24 was that minimum amount of frames in a second which your brain can connect constant movement. But now, there is no reason why we still film at 24. Technically, there is no limitation. The only limitation is no one doing it because there is no projector, and there is no projector because no one doing it. This is why I want to push. If they watch it in 96, they will never film 24 again. Simply enough.
You know this expression of Jean-Luc Godard, that "film is truth 24 times a second..." I will not argue now with Godard about if art is supposed to reflect life, but I propose another formula. I believe life is more complex than truth. Life contains lies as well, not only truth. So it means 24 frames per second of truth; 24 frames per second of lies; then 24 frames per second of doubt. Because doubts are important for art; you cannot make art without doubt and you cannot live without doubt. You can say "I love you," but still you can have doubt. And most important: magic.
As you're talking about pushing the medium forward, I'm thinking about the sequence in Aquarela of wild horses crossing a river, their legs trudging underwater. The first thing I thought when I saw that was, "Oh, this is like a Muybridge homage" -- it's like you're going back to the first recorded images of movement.
Kossakovsky: Thank you very much! You only one who got it. It was my secret weapon, and you got it. You know, I always say filmmaking is like iceberg. So in an iceberg, you can see in the surface only 10% and 90% is below surface. Same with filmmaking. You don't have to accept that people understand how it was done.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.