Kurosawa Productions has given THR an exclusive sneak peek at the trailer for its upcoming short film, The Hound of Heaven, which is set to premiere at the 2014 Raindance Film Festival on Oct. 4.
The Hound of Heaven tells the story of a girl who believes that she is fleeing death, when she is actually running away from her only chance at life. It is set to a surreal, nightmarish poem written in the 19th century by Francis Thompson, a homeless opium addict in London, that explores the conflict between the innate human fear of death and the Christian belief in heaven. The short was executive produced by Brian Oxley and Hisao Kurosawa, the president of Kurosawa Productions and the producer of his legendary father’s films, including Ran (1985), Dreams (1990) and Rhapsody in August (1991). Aaron Rench and Caleb Applegate produced.
In the trailer, writer-director Nate “N.D.” Wilson matches the surreal nature of the poem with striking visuals, such as the moon hanging from a chain and star Danielle Smith climbing out of a grave like a butterfly hatching from its cocoon. Meanwhile, Los Angeles-based hip-hop artist Jason Petty, aka Propaganda, narrates in spoken-word style. “As humans, we are capable of truly profound confusion, even muddling the difference between living and dying. It’s when our desires are in chains that we are often the most free,” Wilson told The Hollywood Reporter of the symbolism.
Despite its short running time of only 18 minutes, the film is “simultaneously brimming with aggression and tenderness,” said Kurosawa. “Nate excels in his craft as a director and storyteller with this vivid and imaginative piece of cinema.”
Nate, credited as N.D. Wilson in his shorts, is no stranger to adapting literature for film. He is currently writing the screenplay for C.S. Lewis‘ The Great Divorce as well as scripts for two of his own novels. He did say that he benefited from Kurosawa’s sharp eyes on this project. “Having to meet Kurosawa’s standards provided the right kind of inspirational pressure for all of us,” he said. “I’ve turned in a lot of different types of creative work before, but I have to be honest, nothing really measures up to the experience of submitting a rough cut of this film to Hisao Kurosawa. Not a guy I wanted to let down … and his pride in this film has really made my year.”
Why did Wilson pick this particular poem? “My favorite type of inspiration always comes as a challenge,” said Wilson. “In the case of Hound, the producers asked me whether or not I thought the soul of this amazing and ruthless poem written by a homeless opium addict in the 19th century could be captured in a live-action short film. After soaking in the poem for a few weeks, I had something I really believed in, and I’m so grateful to the producers for letting me chase that vision.”