There is no question about that. It’s very much a very complex thing. Because cows are so complex, and their bodies, the way they move, how they eat, their milk composition, everything changes a lot within one or two days. So in order to draw them with some consistency, I have to work out the movements, I have to work out the movements from their body parts, then I need to give a lot of information to the digital artist how the cow moves and the various actions it takes and everything. But also for the digital artist, I don’t have that kind of information in hand; I don’t even know how much the cow has in it.
It feels like the cows in your films are just abstract reflections of things in your own psyche?
That’s basically what it is. The cows themselves just become abstract mirrors of what’s in me, what I could do, what I’m willing to do.
You have this very specific idea that we all have this kind of mental life that we have that’s much more elaborate, much more complicated than we realize. Do you have any idea about why you’ve become a director?
I don’t know. When I was a young man, I don’t know. I was working at a school but I didn’t think I had become anything, and then I had this epiphany that there’s a point of no return. There’s not a life that’s worth living — even if we could get rid of mortality, which is a bad idea — there’s still a point at which everything changes, and that time is the time to start to create.
Is that where “The Golden Compass” comes from?
It comes from a place in myself where I realized that it’s a good enough reason to live. When I went back to New York after finishing the films, I felt that way for a few months, and then my own life started in a terrible place. It was really important for me to take the time to think about why things feel the way they do. If everything was so complicated, there would be no point.
So in your films, you’re taking very small things and looking at them a little closer.
Exactly. And what I love about “Golden Compass” is that instead of just being super abstract in the filmmaking, it’s actually very visual. And we’re just using the images that we have, in a way, to get at
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