Post delays meant drama for Arcand’s Days of Darkness

Oscar-winning producer Denise Robert tells new filmmakers to schedule plenty of time for post-production - advice she wishes she'd taken herself when scheduling Days of Darkness.

Oscar-winning producer Denise Robert tells new filmmakers to schedule plenty of time for post-production – advice she wishes she’d taken herself when scheduling Days of Darkness.

The latest film directed by her husband Denys Arcand was slated for a May release in its native Quebec, but that date was pushed indefinitely by distributor Alliance Vivafilm when some special effects and a final sound mix weren’t finished on time.

‘Denys turned to me and said, ‘This is a movie, not a race’,’ Robert recalls. ‘He told me he wanted to do it right and not rush things.’

The FX were done at Montreal post shop Hybride, while the sound mix was all done in Paris. However, Robert blames herself – not the post shops – for the delay.

‘We had never made a film with so many different effects, and that was a new experience,’ says Robert, noting that numerous CG effects meant more time needed in post than she bargained for.

Days of Darkness (L’âge des ténèbres) is a bleak, futuristic look at Quebec through the eyes of anguished protagonist Jean-Marc (played by Marc Labrèche), who trudges through his dreary life and government job by escaping into surreal fantasies.

Timing also played a crucial role in the venom that the dynamic duo encountered with Quebec’s press corps when it was announced that Days of Darkness would not be ready for the Cannes competition in May. Gallons of speculative ink were spilled in la belle province before it was announced that the film would close the prestigious Cannes festival, albeit in a less glamorous non-competitive spot.

Then Vivafilm pushed the Quebec release date to Dec. 7, which sparked a barrage of obituaries for Days of Darkness before the Quebec critics had even seen the film, and the stage was set for controversy in Cannes.

‘Honestly, you’d think getting into Cannes wouldn’t be seen as a bad thing,’ Robert said at the time.

Nonetheless, today Robert insists she and Arcand regret nothing, other than underestimating the time they needed for post work.

‘Denys wanted to do everything properly,’ she explains. ‘We did that sound mix in Paris, and there, they tend to do things very carefully and methodically. They’d rather do things perfectly than quickly. It just took more time, that’s all.’

Days of Darkness got mixed reviews at Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival, followed by some harsh reviews when it opened in September in France. However, it took in a solid $852,547 in its first three weeks of release (up until Dec. 27) on Quebec screens, according to Alliance Films.

There’s still no release date set for English Canada, but the film did make the TIFF Group’s top-10 list of the best Canadian features for 2007.

Arcand has barely spoken to the media since TIFF, but during the festival he remained philosophical. When asked if he was feeling the pressure, he responded, ‘No, not at my age. I’ve won an Oscar [for Barbarian Invasions]. What…you want me to win another one? That’s it. I’ve won it. It’s the exact opposite of pressure, really. That win, coupled with my age, gave me a sense of freedom. I feel like I can do whatever I want. So let me alone. I’ll just enjoy myself.’