An Empty Death: Excess and Minimalism in Eugenio Zanetti's Flatliners

“Schumacher, whose past films have varied from the Ross Hunterish melodrama of “St. Elmo`s Fire“ to the warm comedy of “Cousins,“ here seems determined to recombine the most excessive bits of Orson Welles, Ridley Scott and Andrei Tarkovsky. Working with cinematographer Jan De Bont (Black Rain) and production designer Eugenio Zanetti, the director has composed an almost entirely artificial environment, creating the fictional Taft University and its environs out of bits and pieces of Chicago, including the Museum of Science and Industry, the Damen 'L' stop and the lower Michigan Avenue bridge. There is no manhole cover in this world that does not produce sinister clouds of steam; there is no streetlamp that does not radiate a poisonous orange glow from its grotesquely distended globe.” [1]

“Because I wasn’t born in the USA, I’ll probably have a different idea—different expectations—for the so-called artistic achievement. In general. In America, if you get an Oscar, you could think you are somewhere in your career where you have achieved 'success'. But even then, I honestly hope that the best of the creative aspects of my career are yet to come.

Let me better explain my understanding of what achievement is. First, I’m grateful for the possibilities I had. Having being born in a small town in Argentina, just the fact of having a career in the First World implies two things: one is a sense of destiny that we all should have; the other is a sense of who we are as artists. The 21st Century’s idea of the artist as some sort of tortured creature isolated in his or her creative dreams has passed, fortunately; but remnants of that thinking still impregnate our perception of art. The one aspect that I value most in an artist is the capacity to perceive—express things that are invisible to the eye. Many times those things are not necessarily what people expect.” [2]

“In the friendly battlefield that a film is, one has to choose all the time between the possible and the impossible. Ultimately, one has to sacrifice many things to be able to maintain some images one thinks are crucial to narrate the story. Many times a script has few or no description of the universes where the story takes place, so in reading it, one has to extrude the setting from the character’s dramatic arc. This is a process that is both conscious and unconscious. The conscious aspects include an understanding of the period, location and tone of the piece, as well as the budget and other practical considerations. The other is the way we connect with the material in that secret area we call ‘intuition.’ For an artist, intuition is key.” [2]

“A designer’s work is conceptual. We are storytellers; we should be. Design is poetic, visual storytelling. There is a great need when you are given material as a director or writer or painter or whatever area you work to maximize what is given to you. “Maximize” means using whatever intellectual, monetary, economic, time and space considerations available to express your concept in the best way. What counts is how well you develop your concept first. It should come from your heart, go to your mind, and come out through your experience. If there is no money, there should be ideas, and if there is not time to build, you should use the little time you have to destroy! Do whatever you need, but remember that you need to create images that will stay in people’s lives!” [2]