Mozart's classical masterpiece "Don Giovanni" is retold as a story of the modern man's escape from himself and his demons. Juan does that through countless seductions of the women he encounters, until he is inevitably driven to his own death. Mozart's masterpiece is thrown into the chaotic and brutal modern reality in a gritty film - naked and raw as life itself.
"Juan" is Kasper Holten's debut film and a unique movie experience. It has already received invitations to and been shown at film festivals around the world from Korea to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine to the United States and now the Danish premiere is finally here as part of Biografklub Danmark's programme.
In a European city, we meet Juan, a celebrated artist and a notorious womanizer. Leporello is Juan's assistant, and we follow these two men for 24 intense hours where everything goes wrong and Juan's otherwise successful life disintegrates.
During a performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni, Juan sees the beautiful upper-class girl Anna in the audience. He seduces her behind the back of both her fiancé Ottavio and her father, the city's powerful police chief. But the father discovers them, and he sees the incident as rape on his daughter. Juan wants to run away, but by accident he kills the father. Anna is devastated but she still decides to protect Juan, and tells police that she did not see the killer. Together with Leporello Juan flees through town, and soon the urge to seduce more women emerges. When he sees a beautiful woman however, it turns out to be Elvira, a former mistress. She has come to town to find Juan, but Juan succeeds in escaping from her.
Juan and Leporello instead stumble across an engagement party at a bar. Juan takes an interest in the future bride, Zerlina, and he persuades her to leave the party with him and gets Leporello to entertain the groom Masetto. Juan seduces Zerlina in his studio, and Masetto becomes suspicious and wants revenge. Meanwhile, Anna has caved in at the police station while Ottavio was pressuring her to reveal who killed her father.
When Juan later hosts a party in his studio, it turns into a nightmare for him. He is disclosed by disillusioned mistresses, jealousy-ridden men and especially the police, who finds the notorious playboy.
Everything is about to crash for Juan, and during his desperate escape he sets fire to his studio. The escape leads him back to the crime scene where it all began. Here the addled Juan hears the slain man's voice. Juan is about to fall apart, but he insists on continuing the flight, and together with Leporello he steals a car and hurtles through town. While the police pursue them in a frantic car chase, Juan faces his demons for the first time in his life...
The idea for "Juan" occurred seven years ago when producers Malene Blenkov and Michel Schønnemann contacted Kasper Holten. It was Kasper Holten's highly cinematic version of "Das Rheingold" that convinced the filmmakers that he possessed a great film talent.
"During the first meetings we discussed and agreed upon, which work to adapt to the screen and what grip we should use to reinterpret the opera genre. The mutual ambition was to merge the two art forms into a whole new expression, so the best of both was embodied in a completely new and unique way. To maintain the presence and power of Mozart's masterpiece with a team of stars-of-tomorrow, who would play along with the film's terms," says the film's two producers.
"Juan" is based on Lorenzo da Ponte's libretto (which in opera-lingo is similar to a script) to Mozart's opera from 1787. Lorenzo da Ponte's story is a version of the classic mythical story of the seducer Don Giovanni / Don Juan. It began with Tirso de Molina's play The Trickster of Seville and The Stone Guest, published in Spain around 1630, and this was the first time the world heard about the insatiable womanizer and libertine Don Juan. Since then the world has witnessed numerous artistic and intellectual interpretations of the story about the mythical character from Moliere, Lord Byron, Søren Kierkegaard and Albert Camus.
This version of the story is first and foremost a portrait of the modern man in the 21st century. A portrait of the forces that drive us forward in a restless search for new achievements and conquests. "Our Juan is a man who lives on absorbing and devouring other people's dreams," says Kasper Holten. "He is an intellectual, and he is aware of his own destructive behaviour and sees his own demise as an inevitable end, without being able to save himself. He is a strong, seductive and charismatic person who is extremely manipulative through his extraordinary ability to penetrate other people and their feelings. Each new conquest does not calm Juan, it just adds to the thirst."
Together with the Danish living legend within sceenwriting, Mogens Rukov, Kasper Holten began to deconstruct Lorenzo da Ponte's story and rebuild it as a modern screenplay. "We worked hard to get to the essence of the Don Giovanni fable," says Kasper Holten. "One of our first decisions was to let the story unfold over 24 hours - the last day of Juan's life. The work on the script also comprised shortening the length of the opera, which normally would not be done on stage. Of course it was heart-breaking having to leave out brilliant musical passages, but we wanted to focus on Juan's story. Mozart's music can handle it and we have had tremendous respect for the music in our efforts to interpret his masterpiece. He was modern in his days, and he probably wouldn't mind our free approach to his works, I hope."