How the ‘Cyrano’ director used technical trickery to ensure the movie’s ‘heartbeat’ couldn’t be cut

Anyone who has seen Joe Wright’s “Cyrano” musical will no doubt remember a scene at the end of the film, in which three unnamed soldiers sing a ballad accompanied by drums called “Wherever I Fall”. The five-minute sequence, about the message every man would like to send home before he dies, beautifully accentuates the classic story’s theme of the power of love language.

But according to Wright, the scene required a bit more directorial cunning to ensure it wouldn’t be cut from the film.

“Due to the circumstances of our filming location in Sicily – we were near Mount Etna, which had just erupted – we had to reduce our number of shooting days and I had to make strategic cuts in the script,” the director told TheWrap. “And the studio said, ‘Well, you should cut that song, because it doesn’t feature the main cast and it doesn’t matter as much to the central plot. “”

But Wright was determined to keep it. “This song moved me incredibly,” he said. “So I managed to fit it into the main shot of the dialogue scene that followed it. The camera pans away from the three soldiers and we see that Cyrano (Peter Dinklage) and Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) have always been there, just offscreen. So with these two guys in the shot, it would be impossible for the studio to cut.

Wright added with a laugh, “Making movies is all about tricks.”

You can listen to the song here.

The song was written by members of Brooklyn-based rock band The National (music by Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner; lyrics by Matt Berninger and Carin Carin Besser), originally for the musical “Cyrano” by Erica Schmidt in 2018. In an interview with TheWrap in December, the band said they considered “Wherever I Fall” one of the “strongest songs we’ve written in our career” and a “timeless” song. that they would never have written if not for “Cyrano”.

The plaintive, open-hearted ballad is sung by three soldiers to a messenger collecting letters during the siege of Arras in 1640. Each man dedicates his part of the song to a loved one: one his wife, one his unrequited love. , an estranged father.

The studio was correct that “Wherever I Fall” isn’t sung by any of the film’s main cast, which includes Dinklage (as Cyrano de Bergerac), Haley Bennett (as Roxanne), Harrison (as Roxanne’s lover Christian ) and Ben Mendelsohn (as the villainous De Guiche). Individually or together, they sing all the songs in the film, except this one.

In a trio of moving miniature performances, the soldiers of “Wherever I Fall” are played by Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard (Oscar winner with Marketa Irglova in 2008 for “Falling Slowly” from “Once”, which was recently covered on “Émilie in Paris”); American singer-songwriter Sam Amidon, who has released seven albums and performed with The National; and British actor and singer Scott Folan, recently the star of the London production of “Be More Chill”.

Glen Hansard in “Cyrano” (MGMUnited Artists Releasing)

Sam Amidon in

Sam Amidon in “Cyrano” (MGMUnited Artists Releasing)

Scott Folan in

Scott Folan in “Cyrano” (MGMUnited Artists Releasing)

The musical sequence includes only a few edits, as Wright and longtime cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (“Atonement,” “Anna Karenina”) chose to film the three actors in intimate close-ups. And then, once Folan has finished his part of the song, the three soldiers stand up to walk out of the barracks, and the camera pulls back to reveal Dinklage and Harrison in the foreground.

Or, as Wright put it, “My little insurance policy against its removal. I think that song is really the heartbeat of the whole movie.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Peter Dinklage in

Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Peter Dinklage in “Cyrano” (MGM/United Artists Releasing)

Wright loved the use of close-ups in movies, especially in this scene and another between Dinklage and Bennett (the director’s real-life partner) near the end of the film.

“I love the human face and I love close-ups,” he said. “There is nothing more powerful in cinema than a close-up. I think of Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard in “Brief Encounter”. People ask me what my favorite shots are in my own movies and I think they expect me to say some outlandish Steadicam shot or something.

He continued, “Well, no. In ‘Cyrano,’ my favorite shots are at the end, with Haley (Bennett) and Pete (Dinklage) sitting on the bench and talking at the end of the movie. It’s just a just two knocks. Just their faces. Nothing more.

And Wright also says the close-ups are tied to our experience of human connection, especially over the past two years.

“The whole movie is sort of a response to the pandemic,” he said. “It’s really essential that the film, at its core, is about the importance of connecting as individuals. It was amazing that we were able to connect as fellow artists and bring out that passionate spirit in the face of adversity. And getting the audience to connect with the film – that’s exactly why I do it.

“Cyrano” plays in theaters and is available for rental on Spectrum on Demand.

Comments are closed.