The idea of fairytales and fables has been passed down for centuries, in all different forms and tones, for the enjoyment and education of all. For some, film is their perfect fairytale, an escape from the world around them to a place they can become whole again. For others, it’s oral tales told with a rhythmic voice that soothes the listener into tranquility. Emmanuel Solotareff combined both of these mediums into his new short film One, creating a modern fable for generations to come.
One revolves around Danny and his relationship with Illya, the world around him, as he explores waking life. Each day begins and ends with the harmonious bond between Danny and Illya. It isn’t until Danny has an awakening that the bond becomes strained. This mythical story is related to the audience through the hypnotic narration from Ian McShane, providing the backstory and tale that compliments the visual representation of the kinship on screen.
The film begins with picturesque expanses, paying respect to the four corners of our world and their various landscapes. With no distinct local being presented, the audience is able to be whisked away into a fabled retelling of the beginning of time.
Alexandre Ayer (director of photography) and his gifted photographer’s eye shepherded the audience through these godly locations. Ayer and Solotareff traveled from the metropolis of New York out west.
“A lot about this film unfolded organically along with the trip. Clearly, Nature plays an important role in the film,” Ayer explains. “When we saw a place and experienced its energy that Emmanuel and I decided to film there.”
The visuals are so breathtaking that there is never a fear of overshadowing, but instead guides the tale to reach its intended potential.
“We knew that the locations would have to serve the story, and that the arc of the story and our itinerary would fit beautifully,” Ayer adds. “As the character evolves so does his relationship to Nature and himself, the scenery evolves too.”
McShane’s sultry voice is how you want tales to be told. He emphasizes the journey in such a way that the world presented to you is undeveloped until your interpretation begins. The role of narrator quickly becomes that of an escort, presenting the details as they are without steering the meaning in one direction or another.
“The narrator needed to be both reassuring and unquestionable, and there’s a certain melody in Ian’s voice that works perfectly with the lyrical tone of the text,” Solotareff says. “He has one of these voices that seem to capture every aspect of a sentence.”
Solotareff and his very talented crew worked in harmony to bring a tale to the screen that is both able to be comprehended and appreciated, never getting lost in the breathtaking visuals. One is a perfect example of how two mediums, audio and visual, can compliment each other through diversity.
“I wrote the voice over after the shooting was done,” Solotareff adds. “To be able to look at the film in its entirety completely mute and just dropping the voice on it, the two can complete each other without taking the risk of one becoming the excuse for the other, or the adjustment for the other.”
The most interesting aspect about that openness, is that the tale being told is well-defined and important. The audience becomes entranced in the tale, yet at the same time is allowed to create their own fable.
What struck me was the spirit that emerged while I watched the film. I began to see my struggles and life unfold through Danny. The story of Illya surpassed the initial meaning and transcended into something that was relevant to my current situation. While I was beginning to see my tale grow, I simultaneously saw a different version just under the surface. I fully began to understand the hidden weight behind the telling of One.
Fables as a genre have always been a tool that can be used in times of confusion. They are present to teach us aspects of human nature that we need to cultivate and practice. Throughout our lives, when we revisit these tales, while the words don’t change, their meanings and teachings do. Fables are exactly what we need when we need them, no matter what age we are.
Whether this was the ultimate intention of Solotareff, One has aligned itself with the power of fables and become something that will cross multiple generations from now until the end of time. A story about the beginning of time may be the power the end of time needs to find its focus again, or whatever is needed at a particular time.
“It’s a story about change, transformation, evolution, rebirth; and traveling (even more on that scale) forces you to change,” Solotareff says.
Written by Lisa Mejia