The 51st New York Film Festival: All is Lost
The 2013 film All is Lost is one sailor's amazing story of survival in the Indian Ocean after his boat is struck by a cargo container. Potentially more amazing is that the film was made at all with a $9 million budget, a thin script, and almost no dialogue. It is gripping, sparse, and haunting in production, relying minimally on music and almost entirely on a close watch of every move the unnamed main character makes. When J. C. Chandor envisioned the film, he had only one actor in mind: Robert Redford.
Redford accepted the role of "Our Guy" wanting the challenge of portraying a character who, rather than having his own backstory, could stand in for anyone in the same situation. As the only person in the film, conveying the human struggle to survive rests on his capable shoulders. The audience has had no problem projecting themselves into Redford's masterful performance, which Duane Dudek of the Journal Sentinel described succinctly as "Redford wordlessly turning every thought into an action with meaning and purpose." Ali Arikan of RogerEgbert.com, wrote "Redford gives the performance of the latter half of his career in a role that is not just physically, but also psychologically demanding."
In this panel from the 2013 New York Film Festival, Redford and Chandor describe the experience of working on the film. Challenges came in the form of portraying a character who has no clear past, filming on the water, and trusting in the strength of Chandor's detailed, yet dialogue-free, script.
Robert Redford is the founder of the influential Sundance Film Festival that inspires and funds independent filmmaking. He has won multiple Oscars, including Best Director for Ordinary People (1981), Lifetime Achievement, and multiple Best Picture wins. But he has only once been nominated for an acting Academy Award—for the Sting in 1974. Redford's career began in the 1950s in television, and he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for the Voice of Charlie Pont in 1962. His transition to film led to such legendary successes as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and A River Runs Through It (1992). There have been few spans of years since Redford began in Hollywood in which his work has not garnered accolades, but the highest acting award still eludes him.
J. C. Chandor first came to prominence for the 2011 film Margin Cell, for which he was nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award and the Golden Bear at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival. A. O. Scott of the NY Times was blown away by the talent he displayed in his freshman film, explaining, "It is hard to believe that Margin Call is Mr. Chandor’s first feature. His formal command — his ability to imply far more than he shows or says and to orchestrate a large, complex drama out of whispers, glances, and snippets of jargon — is downright awe inspiring." Chandor's previous work was in commercial direction.
Director J.C. Chandor and Robert Redford discuss the filming of All is Lost at the 51st New York Film Festival. In the interview Redford said he was quick to trust Chandor and be on board. "When I got the script from J.C. it had a lot of things I was very impressed with and attracted to. There was no dialogue, it was bold," Redford said. He went on to say that there were plenty of details and a strong vision as well. There was no discussion needed. J.C. Chandora was able to direct while the camera was rolling since there was so little dialogue, and Robert Redford was able to completely absorb himself in the character who was the only man on screen.
Can he survive? Is all lost? Listen to this amazing interview to find out more!
Chandor had a sailing background before making All is Lost, mainly in watching his parents sail and participating in one open-sea sail himself. The filming allowed him to explore his own fear of being in a wreck at sea, and the sounds written into the script came directly from his memory.
One man. Alone on the screen. Robert Redford.
"All is lost." You get what you are given. The rest is up to you. Imagine your own story. Aka no more being a lazy audience.
What does it feel like to have miles of deep sea beneath you?