We talk to director Fin Manjoo about art and how this relates to the story of the character, Bonifaz in his feature film, Woodwind.
Bonifaz is a music composer who feels frustrated with the art scene in the western world that mostly supports traditional classical or pop music. For personal reasons (to understand a coincidence with a female) he travels to India where he becomes inspired by a mysterious source to develop a new ‘voice’ into his compositions.
Manjoo developed the story of Woodwind for many years, particularly with intensive research while living in Vienna and speaking to many musicians. One of whom was Stefan Fraunberger, who was chosen as the film’s soundtrack composer and has a unique approach to music in a land that’s dominated by the strongest classical traditions with the likes of Mozart and Beethoven.
Bonifaz’s challenge to take the form of music further forward is one that Manjoo himself relates to, having written the original screenplay as well as directed Woodwind. Manjoo talks about this unique direction of the film:
“One of the challenges is that Woodwind doesn’t provide you with instant answers (like a mainstream film) while you are watching. In recent years virtual reality and interactive stories are coming through where audiences are no longer sitting passively. However cinema always exhibited the potential for viewers to be more involved beyond light entertainment. Here our mind’s potential is far stronger than what filmmakers have been able to tap into, or are even aware of. My intention was to push these boundaries using age-old techniques that achieve this with sound (music) and poetry with motion pictures,” said Manjoo.
Technically, this is not an experimental or avant-garde film. Woodwind is a narrative feature created with the same technical specifications as a mainstream movie. Director Fin Manjoo has been free to follow his vision of Woodwind without any outside interference, keeping the art true to itself, thanks to the film being a purely independent production. This philosophy is in line with the character Bonifaz in the film. Here Manjoo underlines how audiences ‘interact’ with Woodwind through Bonifaz.
“With Woodwind the pieces gradually unfold and the viewer has to think deeply to connect the connections that Bonifaz experiences. How the audience interprets these events tells you just as much about the viewer than Bonifaz. So, you can interpret what happens to Bonifaz in many ways. I wouldn’t reveal one dimension of the plot before, during or after the film. As a result, the themes are open to all world views. In the past some artists were accused of being elitists but I believe that with Woodwind I’ve placed my faith in the ability of all people, to be a thinking audience member that has the potential to read these signs. The objective of this cinema is not to show how great the filmmaker is, but for the artist to be an instrument to channel this truth and heighten our perception together.
“Unlocking Woodwind is not just about the 136 minutes on screen, but preparing your mind for a heightened experience beforehand and then at the end you have to reflect very deeply upon these details for a good time later, in order to be rewarded with the full picture. Even trained cinephiles might require a second viewing (or to replay key moments in their head after leaving the cinema) for the puzzle to come together. In my life I’ve been stimulated by a few films with this capacity to push our limits and stay with us. Of course you can also watch Woodwind by just taking in the surface details, but as in life itself, then you won’t be able to unravel the answers to all the mysteries therein,” concluded Manjoo.