When you make your way on the road of life, the hope is that you will feel some kind of personal satisfaction along the journey. This hope is especially true after working in a career, raising a family, participating in your community and so on. Of course, living a life means that one must accept and deal with the good with the bad that comes one`s way. However, boredom, cynicism or disappointment can start creeping in at some point, causing one to question what his or her true purpose in life is.
The 8-minute short film written and directed by Montreal’s Maxime-Claude L’Ecuyer examines this crisis through a clever combination of two well-known cultural icons in Squad Leader TD-73028 Soliloquy. In this short, a battered and tired Star Wars Stormtrooper (known as Squad Leader TD-73028) recites the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Hamlet as he slowly walks through the heat and sun in a hilly sand dune. While walking in contemplation, the Stormtrooper makes a startling discovery in the sand that ultimately helps him make his final decision regarding his career path. Check out the trailer below:
Short Film Fan recently reached out to Maxime to get his perspective into Squad Leader TD-73028 Soliloquy.
Short Fim Fan: Why did you decide to make this film?
Maxime-Claude L`Ecuyer: It all started at a party when my friend David Blouin, a cosplayer and member of the Star Wars Cosplayer group 501st Garrison Fortress Imperiale, showed me picture of his Stormtrooper suit. He made an exact replica of the Stormtrooper (a Sand Trooper) from Star Wars Episode IV- A New Hope. This is the Stormtrooper who famously said in the film, “These are not the droids you’re looking for. Move along.” David made his costume based on this particular Stormtrooper. It`s an exact replica in the smallest detail and one of the best in Canada. As soon as he showed me picture of his costume, I told myself right away that I had to do something with it and I said to him jokingly, “I’m going to make a Shakespearean short film with your costume.” Three years later, it happened! That was the starting point.
SFF: The Stormtrooper uniforms and weapons look very authentic. How did you get a hold of them?
MCL: David Blouin made the suit himself using still frames from the film. As I mentioned, David is a member of the 501st, which is an international fan-based organization dedicated to the construction and wearing of screen-accurate replicas of Imperial Stormtrooper armor and other villains from the Star Wars universe. When a member is accepted into the organization, they receive a name for their replica. The name of David’s persona is TD-73028. So, that is why I used it in the title of the short film. It is like paying homage to his suit. David used a hi-res picture of the original helmet that was sold at Christie’s so he could have all the smallest details of the helmet used in that scene. I think that is why the short film works; there is a feeling of the real thing that’s happening and the spectator connects to the character right away. Stormtroopers are seen mostly in the background in the Star Wars movies. To put him in the central role and reflect on his purpose in life – that where lays the originality of the proposal, I think.
SFF: Did you have to clear any copyright issues with the Star Wars creators before making the film?
MCL: There are a lot of Star Wars fan films out there, so it’s tolerated by Disney as along has you don’t make money out of it. There is even a fan film competition held by Disney. So, I spent more money making this self-financed short film with a generous and talented crew that followed me in this crazy adventure. My short is made for the festival circuit and it will be online at the end of the year or so.
SFF: What would you like the audience to take away from Squad Leader TD-73028 Soliloquy?
MCL: This is not a fan film in the tradition of the genre. I consider Squad Leader TD-73028 in continuity with my previous work.
When we put these two mythical universes together (that of Star Wars and Shakespeare), it clashes. It creates sparks. Everything can happen in the mind of the spectators and that’s what interesting for me. It’s a reflexive film that offers a pause. We look at this Stormtrooper: this faceless soldier; a pawn in the service of the Rogue; the deserter who reflects on his human condition, questioning the reasons even to exist and on the meaning of his life. We try to humanize this faceless masked soldier. He is often in background in Star Wars movies and this short puts him in the center of the film.
By mixing classics and pop culture together, we can evoke the social and political aspect of today. In that way, there’s a parallel between the Death Star and potential world destruction. In the middle of all this, there is a Stormtrooper; a deserter wondering about his place and purpose in all of this. This faceless soldier; one piece of the puzzle is now reflecting on the meaning of life and so does the spectator, we hope.
This is all the genius and richness of Shakespeare’s text presented as the inner voice of a Stormtrooper. It demonstrates that Shakespeare’s language still echoes down to us through the centuries and remains as relevant today as ever-not to mention as well in a galaxy far, far away…
It’s a very slow and meditative short film. It’s not narrative in a sense that it’s a moment in the life of this Stormtrooper. But, we kind of want it to be very open in this way. A hypnotic feel and slow pace was needed to absorb the famous Shakespeare soliloquy in order to get a sense of the power of the text. Everybody knows the first line, “To be or not to be.” But, few people know the rest. If we can give access or illuminate a new generation to Shakespeare’s writing, our job is done through this film.
Short Film Fan Review:
This was an incredible melding of classic and pop cultures. The soliloquy was haunting and spoken at a perfect pace. The replication of the Stormtrooper`s uniform and weapon was spot on. The ominous background music and the heavy breathing added to the severity of the situation. In effect, Squad Leader TD-73028 Soliloquy humanizes a character that is normally portrayed in Star Wars films as a ruthless soldier. For young Star Wars fans that have not had much English literature education, Squad Leader TD-73028 would be a good introduction to one of Shakespeare’s famous plays.
Squad Leader TD-73028 Soliloquy has been screened in numerous film festivals, including Regard International Short Film Fest (Canada) and Busan International Short Film Fest (South Korea). It will be playing at PÖFF SHORTS in Tallinn, Estonia at the end of November and will also screen at Shorts That Are Not Pants in Toronto, also at the end of November. There is no end in sight to its screenings around the world! Congratulations to Maxime, actor David Blouin, and voice-over Anton Golikov for creating and executing this soon-to-be classic short film.