A Montreal-based film producer has merged two of the most internationally famous works of entertainment in history. With Squad Leader TD-73028 Soliloquy, Maxime-Claude L’Écuyer merges Star Wars and Shakespeare’s Hamlet in a short film. The work has already won awards and recognition around the globe for its original portrayal of a stormtrooper going through an existential crisis.
The film is clever and beautifully shot as the stormtrooper recites the “To be or not to be” soliloquy. As I watched it, I was reminded of Godfrey Reggio’s film Koyaanisqatsi, a monumental film in its own right about life out of balance. If less colourful in filming and spirit.
Interview With The Director
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Maxime-Claude L’Écuyer shortly after the film’s release.
What inspired you to make this short film?
It all started at a party when my friend David Blouin, a cosplayer and member of 501st showed me a picture of his Stormtrooper suit. He made an exact replica of the Stormtrooper from Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode 4 from 1977). The “These are not the droids you’re looking for. Move along.” Stormtrooper. 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.
Where was it filmed?
What was difficult was to find Tatoine in Quebec, the desert planet of Star Wars universe. Finally, I found Tatooine in Saint-Lazare, in a sand quarry that is used by students in heavy machinery. It’s about an hour from Montreal. They gave us access for one day during the weekend. One day of shooting is not long so we had to be efficient.
How did you film it?
We had to use a steady cam device in order to be mobile and efficient knowing the time that was counted. This allowed us to create this floating atmosphere and the slow pace needed for the short film. Of course, the angles were restrained but with my DOP Arnaud Dumas, we managed to find the right angles to create the illusion that we are Tatoine. At the shooting we were a small team of 6 people, we shot “guerrilla style” if I can say that.
Does it take place on Tatooine between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?
Yes! We tried to put the action in between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The Squad Leader TD-73028, who let Luke escape and was tricked by Obi-Wan Kenobi, became a deserter and started to question is own existence and purpose in life.
What should viewers take away from the film?
When we put these two mythical universes together, 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 and a deserter who reflects on his human condition, questioning the reasons to even exist and on the meaning of his life. We try to humanize this faceless masked soldier. He is often in the 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 writing’s that demonstrates that Shakespeare’s language still echoes down to us through the centuries and remains as relevant today as ever. Everybody knows the first line, “To be or not to be.” But, few people know the rest. If we can give access a new generation to Shakespeare’s writing, our job is done through this film.
Best of luck for continued success with the film.